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REVIEW: Strictly Ballroom (UK tour)

Updated: Feb 13

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

5 June 2023

⭐⭐⭐⭐


Strictly Ballroom the musical Kevin Clifton and Faye Brookes. Credit Danny Kaan

Based on Baz Luhrmann’s iconic worldwide film phenomenon, Strictly Ballroom: The Musical follows rebellious ballroom dancer Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton) on his quest to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix dancing championship.


The show opens in a swirl of glitz and glamour as we meet Scott and his dance partner Liz in the midst of a ballroom dance competition.


The costumes are gorgeous and the dancers are incredible. There is so much to look at; the tans, the glitter, the hair! But it's not all sparkle and joy; the dancers squabble and push each other as they vie for the judges attention.


Strictly Ballroom the musical. Photo credit Ellie Kurtz

When Scott dares to introduce his own dance steps - that are not strictly ballroom - he falls out of favour with his dance partner and with the Australian Federation. Scott is soon approached by ballroom beginner Fran (Faye Brookes) who dreams of being his partner.


What follows is a rom-com full of sharp Aussie humour and moral dilemmas as Scott flips between listening to his heart and his head.


Strictly Ballroom the musical, Kevin Clifton, Faye Brookes, Jose Agudo. Photo credit: Ellie Kurtz

From the moment Faye Brookes stepped on stage she had the audience in the palm of her hands. Her comic timing is magnificent and her early attempts to woo Scott are some of the highlights of the show.


This is not the first time I've seen Faye perform live; I saw her star as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and as Prince Fiona in Shrek pre her Coronation Street days. She was brilliant in both and there is no doubt she's a triple threat, leading lady. But she was so utterly perfect and delightful in this role, her performance elevated this show to a whole other level for me.


As Scott battles to escape the confines of the strict ballroom dance curriculum, Fran too faces her own challenges of living with an overprotective Spanish family. When Scott follows Fran home one evening, her father Rico (Jose Agudo) challenges him to dance a Paso Doble.


The next few numbers where Rico, the family and their guests dance the paso are thundering! Agudo is devastatingly good, and when the company comes together in a line of blistering dance at the front of the stage to end Act I, my hands couldn't clap fast enough. Amazing!


Strictly Ballroom the musical company and Jose Agudo. Photo credit Ellie Kurtz

The ensemble cast is made up of world class dancers and even a renowned choreographer; the wonderful Nikki Belsher, who is hilarious as Scott's mum. The trio of Mark Sangster, Gary Davis and Quinn Patrick are some of the finest actors you will ever see on stage and provide some great comic moments.


The set by Mark Walters is beautiful and clever. It stays firmly in the background, never overshadowing the dancers, but is effective and dazzling just the same. Helped by lighting from Richard G Jones, every moment on stage could be a still photo; every scene colourful and beautiful to behold.


The soundtrack is a mix of original and well-known songs including 'Time after time', 'Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps' and 'Love is in the air'. The originals are somewhat overshadowed by the familiar classics, but they work well to either progress the story or build a character's backstory.


A quick side note! There are two versions of Strictly Ballroom the musical; one has a soundtrack made up entirely of cover songs (the version that ran in London's West End from 2018); and the other, with original songs, is the version that we have touring the UK today. I understand that it was Director Craig Revel Horwood's choice to bring the original songs back for this tour and I'm really pleased this is the version I saw. It's always great to see and hear new work, but the songs really do help to tell the story!


Strictly Ballroom the musical, Kevin Clifton and Faye Brookes. Photo credit: Ellie Kurtz

The main draw of this show for many, myself included, is the casting of Strictly favourite Kevin Clifton in the lead role of Scott Hastings. Legend has it, this is Kevin's dream role and one of the reasons he left the TV show for the stage.


Strictly Ballroom the musical, Kevin Clifton. Photo credit: Ellie Kurtz

From start to finish Kevin gives his all to this performance. He has star quality to spare! A phenomenal dancer of course, he can also act and sing very well. He just has that x-factor, that sparkle, that 'je ne sais quoi' that endears people to him.


He is entirely captivating and believable as Scott (even when pretending he can't dance a Paso Doble!) - he owns the stage and the audience adores him. A true showman at the top of his game, this is the fifth show I've seen Kevin star in over the years and he has never been better.


Director / choreographer Craig Revel Horwood along with co-choreographer Jason Gilkison have done a fab-u-lous job here, and quite rightly, the dancing is the main focus of this production.


I did struggle a little to catch every word of dialogue, but I'm unsure whether it was the sound levels in the theatre or just me not being used to the fast-paced Australian accents. I really wished I had subtitles at times! But I never lost the general flow of the story and I'll just need to see it again and listen harder.


Strictly Ballroom the musical. Photo credit: Ellie Kurtz

There was also one part in Act II that didn't sit well with me, that I felt was unnecessary.


But I can't deny that I enjoyed myself! I'm a huge fan of dancing and sequins, so perhaps that's no surprise.


The cast are exceptional! The dancing is spectacular! Throw in some dark humour and lots of clap-along opportunities and it's sure-fire crowd pleaser of a show.


If you enjoy Strictly Come Dancing, then I think you will love Strictly Ballroom. It's a fun, sparkly spectacle that doesn't take itself too seriously. The audience were on their feet on opening night in Glasgow and I for one left with a spring in my step.


⭐⭐⭐⭐


📸 Production Photos: Danny Kaan and Ellie Kurtz


 

Strictly Ballroom UK Tour Tickets

Strictly Ballroom plays at Glasgow's Theatre Royal until Saturday 10th June 2023 and then continues on UK tour.


🎟️UK tour info and tickets: https://strictlyballroomtour.co.uk/#tour



*Full disclosure: I was offered a comp ticket to review this show, but as I already had tickets (purchased over 3 years ago pre-Covid!), I did not accept them. I have not marked this post as an AD for that reason, but I do work with ATG Glasgow to promote and support their shows. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings!


 

🌟 A review of Strictly Ballroom The Musical UK tour, Theatre Royal Glasgow, June 2023 🌟


For media and review requests contact Lisa_InTheTheatre@outlook.com

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