Dressed in a flamboyant devil’s outfit, Elton John enters an addiction rehabilitation session, recounting his life in a flashback (“The Bitch Is Back”).
Young Reginald Dwight grows up in 1950s Britain, raised by his unaffectionate mother, Sheila, and more loving grandmother Ivy. Reginald is interested in music and hopes to perform for his father, Stanley, who takes no interest in his son nor his talent (“I Want Love”).
Reginald begins piano lessons, making his way into the Royal Academy of Music. Stanley abandons his family after Sheila has an affair. Reginald develops an interest in rock music and begins performing in local pubs (“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”). As an adult, Reginald joins the band Bluesology, which is hired to play backup for touring American soul bands, The Isley Brothers and Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. Isley Brothers lead singer Ronald Isley recommends Reginald should write songs and put his old life behind him if he wants to become a famous artist. This inspires Reginald to change his name to Elton John, Elton being the name of the saxophonist of Bluesology and John being adopted from the Beatles’ John Lennon.
Elton begins writing music and tries finding success with Dick James’ record label DJM Records under the management of Ray Williams. Williams introduces Elton to lyricist Bernie Taupin; they form a friendship and move into a flat together to work on their songs (“Border Song”). When Elton admits he is homosexual, he ends his romantic relationship with their landlady, and he and Bernie are evicted.
Elton and Bernie move in with Elton’s grandmother, his mother, and her boyfriend, where they continue writing and create “Your Song.” James sets up a performance for them at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Elton is nervous before his Troubadour debut, but the audience eagerly embraces his performance (“Crocodile Rock”). Elton is overjoyed by his success but feels abandoned when Bernie leaves him at a party to spend time with a woman (“Tiny Dancer”). He is approached by John Reid, a music manager. They sleep together and reunite later.
Reid’s influence over Elton launches a downward spiral into a life of debauchery even as his career rises to new heights (“Honky Cat”). Elton develops a flamboyant, over-the-top stage persona and becomes one of the most successful artists of the 1970s. Reid’s manipulation increases into outright abuse after becoming Elton’s manager. Reid insists Elton to come out to his parents as gay, so Elton reconnects with his father, who has a new family but still displays no interest in Elton. Distraught, Elton calls his mother and tells her that he is gay. She informs him that she already knew, but tells Elton that he will be forever unloved. Struggling with parental issues as well as Reid’s increasing physical and emotional abuse, Elton becomes addicted to alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, shopping, and sex to escape his pain and loneliness, but his mood swings and short temper alienate his friends (“Pinball Wizard”).
Elton catches Reid cheating on him with another man and breaks off their relationship, but allows Reid to continue as his manager. During a party, he binges on drugs and alcohol and attempts suicide by jumping into his pool. He is rushed to the hospital, then thrust on stage at Dodger Stadium to perform (“Rocket Man”).
Elton descends further into a life of drugs, alcohol, and loneliness (“Bennie and the Jets”). He has a short-lived marriage with a close female friend, Renate, but his homosexuality dooms this relationship (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”). He falls out with his mother and Bernie (“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”). Elton’s dependence on prescription pills and alcohol result in a heart attack. Realising that his life is out of control, Elton seeks help (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”). He enters rehabilitation and realizes that he no longer needs support from his parents or Reid. Elton rekindles his friendship with Bernie, who brings him new lyrics. Elton is worried that he cannot perform or compose without alcohol or drugs, but writes “I’m Still Standing” and returns to a successful career.
The epilogue notes that Elton has been sober for over twenty-eight years, but “still has issues with shopping”. He remains good friends with Bernie and is married to David Furnish, with whom he has two children, and is finally loved properly.