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Stephen Daldry asks Thatcher to come see the Billy Elliot musical

Stephen Daldry asks Thatcher to come see the Billy Elliot musical

The director of Billy Elliot would love "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher to come and see his musical that graphically portrays her bitter clash with coal miners in the 1980s. Bringing his hit film to the stage, Stephen Daldry has opted for a much grittier, more politicized adaptation. Thatcher's battle with the trade unions that changed the face of Britain is no longer the backdrop to the tale of a working-class boy who conquers prejudice to become a ballet star; it takes center stage. In one of the Elton John songs that reflect the rage of the miners in their 1984 strike, they chant: "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher / We celebrate today because it's one day closer to your death." "I think, absolutely, Maggie Thatcher should come," Daldry told Reuters Television as he put the finishing touches to the $9.4 million musical being given its world premiere on Thursday. "I suspect she has got enough of a sense of humor to take it on board and know that the vitriol of feeling both from her and the miners was pretty intense during the miners' strike. I should be fascinated to see what she thought of it." Daldry, who during the year-long strike led a theater group touring miners' clubs, is unapologetic about the musical's language. "It is totally appropriate and indeed historically accurate," he said. The strike ended in failure and the closure of the mines in northern England. Elton John has been the driving force behind the musical ever since he first saw the film at the Cannes Film Festival and left the screening in floods of tears, deeply moved by the story of the boy who makes it against all the odds. He too has said he believes the songs accurately reflect the profound hostility to Thatcher, arguing, "Those miners were so frustrated that they would have killed her. You are writing history, and you have to tell it as it was." Added Daldry: "Elton has been a great collaborator right the way through. Don't forget this project was very much his inspiration. It was very much his idea." Daldry, boasting two Oscar nominations for directing Billy Elliot and The Hours, is the first to admit that making the musical required the skills of a general leading an army into battle. British child labor laws strictly limit the number of times they can appear on stage every week. Daldry, who auditioned 3,000 hopefuls, now has three Billy Elliots to rotate through the show over the next six months in a child cast that totals 45. "It has been something of a logistical nightmare," Daldry said. "I certainly did think along the road, What have I let myself in for?" "I think it might be easier to organize and run a small coup in a small country," Daldry said. "It is something of a military operation trying to get the show on." But he is confident Billy Elliot can survive in London alongside hit musicals Mary Poppins and The Producers. "It's a rich canvas right now," he said. "I would have thought it was a good thing. The more the merrier, I say." (Paul Majendie, via Reuters)

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