Strictly Ballroom The Musical

"Colourfully camp"

Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical is an evening of colour, fun, incredible dancing and has that feel good vibe that means you leave the theatre smiling from ear to ear.

As we sit in our seats we are greeted with the dulcet tones of Craig Revel Horwood, who directs and co-choreographs the show.  He provides a rather comical run down of the do’s and don’ts in his native, rather exaggerated, Australian accent.  This kicks off the hilarity to ensue.

If you have ever seen the 1992 film, then you will be familiar with the story of Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton) who wants nothing more than to dance his own steps at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship much to everyone else’s annoyance.  There is one person however that has dreams of joining Scott in his pursuit of a new way of dancing, complete beginner Fran (Maisie Smith) who seizes her opportunity to be lead around the floor by Scott.

Clifton and Smith are a joy to watch from start to finish.  There is a great chemistry between the pair and having seen this show earlier in its tour, I was extremely impressed with how their voices have improved and become much stronger, meaning the musical numbers between the two really do provide some great moments.  Smith especially has a beautiful tone during her main number ‘Beautiful Surprise’ which has many reprises throughout.  I am confident that this won’t be the last we see of Maisie on a stage. Of course, Kevin Clifton is exceptionally well known as a professional dancer from Strictly Come Dancing fame and that shines off the stage, with some show stopping dance moments, including a very impressive closure to Act 1 where Fran’s father (Jose Agudo) shows Scott how to perform the perfect Paso Doble. 

This show is very much an ensemble piece and the dance routines throughout the show are full of sparkle, it’s easy to see the “Strictly” influence throughout the choreography bought to us by Craig Revel Horwood and Jason Gilkison. The costumes by Mark Walters epitomise the world of competitive ballroom dancing with neon fabric, plenty of sequins and flowing dresses that glide around the floor to impressive effect.

The show introduces us to Scott’s parents Shirley (Nikki Belsher) and Doug (Benjamin Harrold), together with close friend Les Kendall (Quinn Patrick) and President of the Australian Dancing Federation Barry Fife (Gary Davis).  There is a fantastic number between Doug, Les and Barry as they reminisce about their younger performing years, including sparkly jackets and rather questionable wigs!  Barry, however wants nothing more than to spoil Scott’s chances of winning the Championship as he did with Doug back in their day.  Gary Davis plays Barry with an air of arrogance, however I did find the two bedroom scenes a little odd and not sure they were needed within the narrative.

We are greeted by some familiar tunes throughout, including Time After Time, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps (sung in Spanish) and unquestionably the most well-known song synonymous with Strictly Ballroom, Love Is In The Air.  This particular song provided a great moment for the audience to jump out of their seats at the end to sing and dance along during the curtain call, which they did in their multitudes, me included!

Safe to say, this show is a crowd pleaser, full of fun, over the top acting (purposely), some very dodgy Australian accents (again purposely!) and first class dance routines.  I can’t say that the majority of the songs are memorable, but as a whole the musical is a joy.

This show was reviewed on the 13th February at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre where it runs until the 18th February 2023.  Tickets available here: https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/strictly-ballroom-the-musical/

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