Billy (musical)

Billy is a musical based on the novel and play Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. The book was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the music is by John Barry, and the lyrics are by Don Black.

MusicJohn Barry
LyricsDon Black
BookDick Clement
Ian La Frenais
BasisNovel Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and the play of the same name by Waterhouse and Willis Hall
Productions1974 West End


Billy opened at the Palace Theatre in Manchester before moving to the West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 1 May 1974 where it ran for 904 performances.

The cast starred Michael Crawford in the title role, with Bryan Pringle (Geoffrey Fisher), Avis Bunnage (Alice Fisher), Christopher Hancock (Mr. Shadrack), Billy Boyle, Diana Quick (Liz Benson), Gay Soper (Barbara), and Elaine Paige (Rita). The production was directed by Patrick Garland with choreography by Onna White, set by Ralph Kotai, costumes by Annena Stubbs, and lighting by Jules Fisher.[1] Roy Castle replaced Crawford late in the run.

The first revival and reimagining of Billy was staged at the Union Theatre in London in June 2013. The production received rave 5 star reviews under the staging and direction of Michael Strassen, who won Best Director at the Off West End Awards 2014. The Independent, awarding it five stars, wrote, "Michael Strassen’s feisty, intelligent, sensationally well lit (by Tim Deiling) production... The first act is extraordinary and the second, like Gypsy’s, tapers off into mere brilliance."


Billy Fisher is an undertaker's assistant who daydreams and lies about his life. He wants to leave his dull, middle-class home in Yorkshire and his dreams become reality for him. In one dream, he is in the mythical land of "Ambrosia", where he is its President and also Captain of its football team. In other dreams he becomes both famous dancers Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

Musical numbers

  • "Ambrosia" — Chorus
  • "And" — Alice, Geoffrey, Gran, Billy
  • "Some of Us Belong to the Stars" — Billy
  • "Happy to Be Themselves" — Billy, Arthur, Company
  • "The Witch's Song" — Barbara, Billy
  • "Lies " — Barbara, Billy
  • "It Were All Green Hills" — Councillor Duxbury
  • "Aren't You Billy Fisher?" — Billy, Company
  • "My Heart Is Ready When You Are" — Liz, Billy
  • "Is This Where I Wake Up" — Billy
  • "Billy" — Billy, Liz, Barbara, Rita
  • "Remembering" — Alice, Geoffrey
  • "Any Minute Now" — Rita, Barbara
  • "The Lady from L.A." — Billy, Company
  • "I Can Make A Difference" — Liz, Billy
  • "Why Can't I Feel Something?" — Instrumental
  • "I Missed the Last Rainbow" — Billy
  • "Finale, Some of Us Belong To The Star" (Reprise), "Ambrosia" (Reprise)

"My Heart Is Ready When You Are", "I Can Make A Difference", and "Why Can't I Feel Something?" were not part of the 1970s production. They were written and added for a revival in the '90s.


According to theatre critic Ken Mandelbaum, "Billy was a brassy, Broadway-style musical, and it took advantage of the services of top-notch American choreographer Onna White. But its trump card was its star, Michael Crawford."[2] Mandelbaum quoted the reviews: "The Daily Mail wrote, 'There is no magic quite like being right there when a star is born,' and that was typical of the raves Crawford received. But his vehicle was equally acclaimed: The Daily Express called Billy 'the most successful British musical since Oliver!,' while The Sunday People called it 'the brightest British musical for years…it's going to hoist brilliant Michael Crawford into the ranks of the superstars.' "[2]


The Original Cast recording was released by CBS (70133) on May 1, 1974.[3]


  1. Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, Da Capo Press, 1980, ISBN 0-306-80113-2, p. 31
  2. Mandelbaum, Ken.CDs: Some of Us Belong to the Stars", December 15, 2004
  3. "'Billy' cast recording", retrieved March 21, 2010
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