West End Theatre Guide
Strictly Ballroom is a musical adapted from the 1992 movie for the stage by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and it follows the story of Scott Hastings, an ambitious and unruly young dancer who delights in breaking the rules of traditional dance competitions and making up his own steps in his bid to win the Pan-Pacific Championships.
In a musical which promises dance in the title, there is a distinct lack of dance throughout with a very limited amount of focused dance numbers that are often abruptly cut short. The little dance there was in the musical was magnificent, choreographed expertly by Drew McOnie, particularly in the Paso Doble scenes, where the tension built was electric.
The plot itself is lacklustre: a rule-breaking dancer, a love-interest in the form of a clumsy yet brilliant beginner dancer, a disappointed mother who uses her son to try to live out her own career fantasies, and a whipped husband who was once like his son but had all his creativity, enthusiasm and confidence beaten out of him by his shrew of a wife. The musical is caught between not having the qualities of an all-out dance show and falling drastically short of having an adequate plot to carry a musical.
The musical’s score is made up of amazing hit songs from the pop back-catalogue, but, unfortunately, Will Young (winner of Pop Idol (TV), Cabaret), who played Wally Strand, the narrator of the story, isn’t strong enough a vocalist to do much justice to songs from Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Billy Idol, and David Bowie.
The cast of this musical all gave great performances with the material they were given. Zizi Strallen (Follies, Mary Poppins, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man) as Fran, Jonny Labey (Eastenders (TV), In The Heights, White Christmas) as Scott Hastings, and Richard Grieve (Neighbours (TV), Home and Away (TV), High Society) as Les Kendall gave particularly notable performances.
Strictly Ballroom has woefully little dance and a weak, meandering plot which leaves a feeling of disappointment which even the iconic songs in the score and stellar performances by the cast members can’t lift.
Strictly Ballroom is showing at the Piccadilly Theatre and it is currently booking until 20th October 2018 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Piccadilly, read our guide.