Anyone attending this show and expecting BBC TV’s Strictly Come Dancing will be disappointed; Strictly Ballroom the Musical is a musical theatre adaptation of the 1992 cult, classic, film Strictly Ballroom. The glitzy glamour and ballroom dancing is there but that’s where the similarity ends.
The show was preceded by a voice-over by Director/Co-Choreographer, Craig Revel Horwood announcing in an Australian accent, jokingly, that any photographs taken during the performance are not allowed and should be instantly uploaded to as many social platforms as possible immediately after the performance.
The Strictly Ballroom film directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann is a comedic satire on the cut-throat world of amateur ballroom dancing; it is regarded as an edgy, in-your-face mockumentary ridiculing the rigid pretensions of people who take competitive ballroom dancing way too seriously. Overall, I don’t think this came across in this production.
Strictly Come Dancing’s ex-professional dancer Kevin Clifton was absent from the performance and Edwin Ray played the lead role of Scott Hastings; Masie Smith, a former Eastenders actress plays female lead, Fran, the ugly duckling who blossoms into a swan. The story revolves around rebellious, talented young Scott who likes to invent his own dance moves and how his radical, daring moves see him fall out of favour with the 1980’s Australian Dance Federation. He discovers that Fran, a cleaner in the dance studio where he trains also has the same motivation, although she is a complete beginner. Together they find the courage to defy tradition and whilst dancing fall in love and live happily ever after.
The show takes a while to get going but just before the interval, a Paso Doble danced by Rico (Jose Agudo) brought the house down and is the highlight of the production; it is spectacular and received extended applause and admiration from the audience.
The stage set is very simple with projections onto the backdrop and the use of different coloured lightbulbs adorning the stage; the main scenes taking place in the dance studio, the ballroom and at Fran’s home.
There were a few sound issues during the production; it was difficult to catch a lot of the banter between the cast mainly due to their adopted Australian accents coupled with either their mics not being at the required pitch or perhaps they were speaking too low. In contrast to this, the songs performed by the ensemble were rather shrill and at times my ears were hurting.
The story line is rather weak with predictable jokes which are somewhat tired and old hat; there is a lot of sexual innuendo and expletives which may offend some and noticeably there were some empty seats after the interval when some audience members decided not to stay for the second half which was somewhat of an improvement on the first half.
Masie Smith and Edwin Ray perform their roles adequately if at times rather perfunctory, there is lots of glitz and glamour due to the costumes plus hit songs ‘Love is in the Air’, ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps’ and ‘Time After Time’ which are included, but unfortunately the show doesn’t really hit the mark and it doesn’t quite have the sparkle of Agudo’s incredible Paso Doble.
Film, Strictly Ballroom is the uplifting story that once inspired the world to dance but unfortunately, I cannot same the same about this production; it is not, as Craig Revel Horwood would say Fab-u-lous.
Strictly Ballroom the Musical is at Liverpool Empire from 17th October until 22nd October 2022. https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/strictly-ballroom/liverpool-empire/
Reviewer: Anne Pritchard
Reviewed: 17th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★