Strictly Ballroom The Musical

This show is camp, colourful, full of fantastic dance numbers and a must for any Strictly Come Dancing fan

As an avid fan of the hit TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, I knew as soon as this musical was announced, that I had to see it.  Not only is the musical Directed and Co-choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, but it also stars professional dancer and 2018 winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Kevin Clifton, alongside finalist from 2020 Maisie Smith.  Surely this was an instant hit with me?  Well, read on to find out!

As we take our seats in the auditorium, we are greeted with the recognisable voice of Craig Revel Horwood himself, albeit in his native Australian accent. He gives us the usual rules around photography etc, but also insists that we have a FAB-U-LOUS time.  The set by Mark Walters is reminiscent of the inside of a ballroom, with lights adorning the top of the set, however it was noticeable that some lights where not working, perhaps the reason we had a 20-minute delay to the start of the show? Nevertheless, it did not distract from the overall staging.

You may or may not be familiar with the film version of Strictly Ballroom with book by Baz Luhrmann from back in 1992.  In short, we meet Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton), a frustrated dancer who wants to create his own steps, much to the annoyance of ballroom stalwart and Australian Dancing Federation head Barry Fife (Gary Davis).  Complete beginner, Fran (Maisie Smith) attends the dance school run by Scott’s Mum, Shirley (Nikki Belsher) and her old dance partner Les Kendall (Quinn Patrick).  She loves the way Scott dances and has visions of becoming his partner and winning the ‘Pan-Pacific Dance Championships’.  Of course, at first Scott laughs at her, but over time she learns the routine, they fall in love and compete, much to the delight of everyone around them especially Doug Hastings (Mark Sangster), Scott’s father who found himself in the same predicament many years ago. 

As an ensemble piece, this works so well.  Obviously, this is a musical with ballroom dancing at its heart and each routine was first class with a very talented team of dancers on stage. Special mention must go to Jose Agudo who plays Fran’s Dad Rico.  To close the first half, we witness the most incredible Paso Doble / Flamenco routine led by Agudo.  It really is the standout moment of the whole show!

In a musical with such heavy dance content, does the singing suffer?  Well, no, in fact Maisie Smith has such a beautiful tone that we hear throughout the show especially during her solo moments of ‘Beautiful Surprise’.  Kevin Clifton also holds his own in the musical numbers, however as he has starred in many big musicals before this was not so much of a surprise.  Strictly Ballroom marks Smith’s first musical theatre role, and I would think not her last.

As with the film, the Australian accents are very much exaggerated and provide many comedic moments throughout.  There are so many funny characters so it’s hard to mention them all, but highlights include Les Kendall (Quinn Patrick), Doug Hastings (Mark Sangster) and Barry Fife (Gary Davis) providing a comical look back at their dancing career, with sparkly jackets and dodgy wigs to boot!  As you would expect, the costumes, by Mark Walters are brash, sequin laden, full of colour and tassels.

The only small negative I can pull from the show was the sound.  At points, the band were too loud, masking some of the narrative and singing, however I’m sure this could be tweaked.

This show is camp, colourful, full of fantastic dance numbers and a must for any Strictly Come Dancing fan.  So quick step to the Birmingham Hippodrome before it leaves on Saturday 5th November 2022.  Tickets available here: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/strictly-ballroom/

Full tour details can be found here: https://strictlyballroomtour.co.uk/

Written for Box Office Radio

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

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