Strictly Ballroom The Musical "laugh out loud"

Posted on 29 August 2018

OK I confess, I am a fan of Strictly Ballroom, the film, so I approached the musical with some trepidation. How could it possibly live up to the film? Due to a fantastic cast and use of some best-selling pop songs, Strictly Ballroom The Musical succeeds in being a great addition to the film. So, if you are a fan of the 1992 film you won't be disappointed- you'll be in raptures over this faithful adaptation, including the mannerisms and visual appearances of the main characters. It is a Rom-Com with an emphasis on comedy. The main ingredient of this very delicious musical is comedy, with romance being the icing on the cake. All the characters are there in an exaggerated form, like an adult pantomime filled with fun, fun, fun. 

There are many laugh-out-loud moments: visual, verbal and slapstick. Michelle Bishop displays her versatile comedic skills as Pam Short, Natalie, Charm and the Auditionee. I found the scenes where she was auditioning to replace Liz hilarious. Liz herself is played by Lauren Stroud as the hard-edged and harsh-voiced, bullying diva who is determined to win the championship at all costs. Jonny Labey as Scott Hastings and Zizi Strallen as Fran are the perfect couple moving step by step to realise their love for each other and for ballroom dance. Anna Francolini is the tough, caustic and villainous Shirley Hastings, who will do anything to achieve her dreams of ballroom victory through her son Scott. Charlotte Gooch really is the prima donna Tina Sparkle- all teeth, fake tan and tantrums. Stephen Matthews as the emotionally abused husband of Shirley was painfully but also comically oppressed, shrinking every time he was noticed to try to make himself disappear. I was impressed by how a mostly British cast were able to maintain Australian accents and speech patterns throughout such a fast-paced show.

I am also an avid watcher of Strictly Come Dancing so I was happy to see that the ballroom dancing featured is on point and the singing is wonderful. Fran's father Rico, played by the amazing Fernando Mira, presents us with an awesome flamenco masterclass in this inspirational version of Strictly Ballroom.

Whilst remaining true to the film it is not overly reverential. The Musical doesn't take itself too seriously; it is knowing, including the mischievous use of familiar pop songs. It is also kindly self-mocking. Matt Cardle as Wally Strand competently pulls off an Aussie accent, whilst brilliantly singing a wide variety of pop songs effortlessly. Who knew Matt Cardle could do comedy? He gets the balance right, particularly the gently self-deprecating tone which runs throughout like a stick of Blackpool rock. Speaking of which, Strictly Ballroom The Musical, reflects the gaudy, glitz and glamour of the home of ballroom dancing and of ballroom itself. The Musical's high camp rivals the best drag artists out there; from the pancake makeup to spray tans, sequins and flamboyant, figure-hugging, costumes which are essential in the world of the competitive ballroom dancing. 

Strictly Ballroom The Musical is a great homage to the film and a joyous celebration of life, love, living your dreams, music, dance and all things ballroom.

Playing at Piccadilly TheatreStrictly Ballroom The Musical must end 27 October, so your chances to see it are dancing away. Book your Strictly Ballroom The Musical tickets here.

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Sandra Howell

By Sandra Howell

Since I was a child and now as an adult, I have loved performing, as an amateur, in choirs and the theatre. As a theatre goer my tastes are broad, I relish musical theatre and dance.  I am passionate about plays by a huge range of writers. I am excited by the wide variety of contemporary plays which entertain, challenge and make me feel deeply.

10 years after a life-threatening road traffic collision left me disabled, I retired from working as a National Officer of a trade union. In recent years, I have been inspired to write short fiction after attending creative writing courses. In 2017, I began writing theatre reviews and I am thrilled by the opportunities to combine two of my loves: live theatre and writing.