Friday, December 2

Strictly Ballroom The Musical – New Wimbledon Theatre

Adapted by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce from the 1992 film, Strictly Ballroom is the story of the rebellious Australian dancer, Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton), who shocks the dance community and his parents by choosing to dance with newbie Fran (Maisie Smith) in the prestigious Pan Pacific Dance Final.

The opening sequence is full of colour and energy, the bright sparkly costumes shining amongst Richard G Jones’ lighting design. The wings are curved, peeling back like an onion, with bright lights in each one, adding glamour and depicting a fitting dance stage. The ensemble cast are dynamic and precise, becoming the spirit and momentum of the show.

The leads, Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton and Eastenders star, Maisie Smith, had excellent chemistry which carried the show. Despite their almost twenty-year age difference, they merged seamlessly. Smith’s acting skills shone in this role, delivering the lines of kooky but endearing Fran perfectly. Smith and Clifton’s voices blended together well, although their pop and soft undertones may have been underwhelming to audience members who are accustomed to traditional West End performers. Hastings’ solo ‘Shooting Star’ showcased his wonderfully soft tone, although the song did not progress dramatically and felt like a missed opportunity to create depth in the show. At times, the performers needed to annunciate more as some words were lost. However, this could have been due to the interpretation of the Australian accent.

©Ellie Kurttz

For a whirlwind love story, there were few moments where the couple appeared solely on stage, which was a real shame. The ensemble tended to appear upstage, providing backing vocals and movement which somewhat ruined the romantic moments. The heartfelt song ‘Beautiful Surprise’ was vocally very good, but the blocking felt unnatural as Smith and Clifton were at opposite ends of the stage. Their chemistry would have flourished if the actors were facing each other, to create a more intense and heartfelt moment. The highly anticipated Cyndi Lauper classic ‘Time After Time’ was underwhelming and the harmonies felt slightly incongruent, the two leads being saved vocally by the ensemble.

When Fran was together with her family, their Spanish culture shone. Abuela (Karen Mann) sang the melody to Fran and Scott’s routine and Fran’s father Rico (Jose Agudo) performed a traditional paso doble, leaving the audience thoroughly captivated. Some more flamboyant fun arose when Doug Hastings (Mark Sangster), Barry Fife (Gary Davis) and Les Kendall (Quinn Patrick) appeared in the most glittered and vibrant of suits to perform a comedic dance routine. However, some of the slapstick entertainment from these three tended to fall flat and was seemingly unsuitable for the audience, perhaps due to the humour being directed to an Australian audience.

Strictly Ballroom is an evening of pizazz, amusement and comedy and does well to entertain. However, for those looking for a bit of grit, this show is far from complex, with a predictable storyline and little to no escalation in the plot, thus making the show feel extremely one dimensional.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical is currently touring across the UK and Ireland until 15th July 2023. More information and tickets can be found at: https://strictlyballroomtour.co.uk/

Reviewer: Maani Way

Reviewed: 7th November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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