AN extraordinary 13-year-old boy leads the show, Billy Elliot, so well he reduces men to tears especially when singing the letter written to him by his mum before she dies.
Lewis Smallman* makes you sad, proud, happy and amused.
He makes Billy’s ambition to become a professional ballet dancer shine throughout.
Lewis pirouettes and somersaults his way through dynamic solos, the most impressive being when he vents his frustration after his macho, striking miner dad stops his dance classes only to be won round later when he realises his son’s outstanding aptitude for dance. Another is Billy’s interpretation of what dance means to him.
His duet with his older self (Luke Cinque-White) is beautiful.
Samuel Torpey* 10, a bundle of minute talent, plays his mate, Michael, a delightful cross-dressing child, who swaps a football for a Cindy doll.
The cack-handed girls who attend classes by Mrs Wilkinson, an inspired Annette McLaughlin, show in the finale that they really can dance.
Set in the 1980s, Martin Walsh creates lonely, Thatcher-hating man whose ideas about masculinity do not include ballet. It is only because Billy sneaks from boxing lessons to the neighbouring dance school that he gets his chance.
After the interval, the first scene becomes panto-like when striking miners wearing Thatcher masks, dominated by a huge replica of the former PM, sing Merry Christmas Mrs Thatcher.
You feel that this is a show you’ve been waiting for all your life.
* Other children perform leads on other nights.
Billy Elliot is at the Palace Theatre until January 28. To book, visit atgtickets.com/Manchester or telephone 0844 871 3019. Star rating: * * * * *.