I FIRST watched Billy Elliot The Musical in 2013 in arguably the most famous theatre district in the world – Broadway.

But as impressed as I was at the time – I don’t remember being as bowled over as I was at the Liverpool Empire on Thursday night.

For Liverpudlians like me, the Empire has always been a special place, probably because I can remember magical nights there as a child.

But I have to say, Billy Elliot is one of, if not the, best show I’ve seen there.

The flawless performance of the actors and the amazing dance routines captivated the audience so much that people were on their feet applauding well before the first half interval.

The energy was relentless, and just when you thought you had surely witnessed the best scene of the show, another amazing dance routine would surpass it.

The stand-out star is, of course, Billy – superbly played by Liverpool actor Adam Abbou whose singing and dancing was captivating.

A shout-out too for Anna-Jane Casey who played ballet teacher Mrs Wilkinson – Julie Walters is a hard act to follow and Anna-Jane captures the role perfectly.

And Billy's best friend Michael, played by Bradley Mayfield, also deserves a mention as he was hilarious.

What’s endearing about the 2000 film is of course the incredible soundtrack - and you wonder whether the stage show would lose some of its appeal without the likes of London’s Calling, Get It On and I Love to Boogie bellowing in the background.

It doesn’t. Elton John wrote the songs for this show and they all work brilliantly.

Just to re-cap, Billy Elliot is set in the North East in the 1980s at the height of the miners’ strike. The young Billy lives with his dad, older brother and elderly nanna and life’s a struggle. Pit closures threaten to devastate families like Billy’s even further.

But while everyone is preoccupied with the strike, the 11-year-old stumbles across ballet.

For Billy, dance is a means of escape where he can lose himself and express his emotions.

For Mrs Wilkinson, she sees a gifted child who has an amazing future ahead of him if only she can only get him into London’s Royal Ballet School. And that means convincing his father that being a ballet dancer is nothing a working class kid should be ashamed of.

The stage show is more raw than the film. The language is more coarse, the humour more cutting and the political venom more tangible as this working class community takes on Thatcher and the Tory government.

This is a must-see show. It’s on at the Liverpool Empire until May 27.