| By Kay Johal
Set amongst the glitz and glamour of London’s Soho, the Piccadilly Theatre is showing Strictly Ballroom - an adaptation of the film based on a play by Baz Luhrmann, and the first in his “Red Curtain” trilogy. Upon entering the auditorium, instrumental versions of ballroom classics are being played. When the curtain rises, the audience is greeted by a sea of colourful costumes and sparkling sequins. Ballroom choreography has been cleverly adapted to fit the stage, which gives the illusion of being transported to the cut-throat world of competitive ballroom dance, overseen by President of the Board, Barry Fife (Gerard Horan).
We are quickly introduced to Scott Hastings and Liz Hoult (Jonny Labey and Lauren Stroud) - a fiery pairing whose initial disagreement results in our meeting Fran (Zizi Strallen). An awkward introduction leads to a friendship, which in turn leads to a working partnership, the development of which is pleasantly mirrored by subtle changes in costume until the real transformation takes place - set to a beautifully-arranged ballad. Slick scene changes and some clever workings of well-known songs ease themselves nicely into a smooth and easy-to-follow storyline, which is carried charmingly by numerous excellent vocal routines and a plethora of dazzling dance displays from ballroom to ballet, from foxtrot to flamenco.
Another draw to this show is the delightful Will Young in the role of Wally Strand. He conveys a challenging performance handled with a real degree of aplomb and delivers a charismatic presentation throughout. The musical numbers are varied, but all are tackled with skill and confidence, and show off his vocal versatility. Mr Young has a smoothly seductive tone about him and can pretty much turn his hand to anything thrown at him.
Amongst the cast and aside from the leads, stellar performances are abundant, most notably from Fernando Mira as Fran’s father, Anna Francolini and Stephen Matthews as Scott’s parents, Richard Grieve as Les Kendall, and Gary Watson as Ken Railings. All work superbly in their roles delivering seamless fluidity and ensuring the attention of the audience is kept throughout. Make no mistake, this is a busy performance with glitter and sequins galore. It would have been easy for the production to get lost in its stage presence and not bother giving the storyline the attention it deserved. Luckily, this was certainly not the case.The salient point to take away from Strictly Ballroom the Musical is this – it’s okay to dare to be different. If you’re one half of a strong pairing, you should never be afraid to fall - if you do, your partner will be there to catch you.
Strictly Ballroom the Musical is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre through 21 July. You can book Strictly Ballroom the Musical tickets here.