'Strictly Ballroom The Musical' waltzes into the West End

The cast of Strictly Ballroom The Musical. Photo by Johan Persson 2.jpg

Get out your fake tan and feathers, as its time to take to the floor as ‘Strictly Ballroom – The Musical’, opened at the Piccadilly Theatre last week.   Starring Will Young, the show promises to make your heart soar and your feet want to dance! And let me tell you, it did just that.

It’s the story of Scott Hastings, the rebel of the dance floor who defies all the rules of the Australian Ballroom Federation, in favour of dancing his own ‘non-federation’ steps.  As a result, Scott finds himself without a professional partner and teams up with an unlikely leading lady in the form of an amateur beginning dancer, Fran.  Defying both convention and their families; they find love on the dance floor and prove that it is not always important to be strictly ballroom.

Based on the multi award-winning film and often forgotten first instalment from Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed Red Curtain Trilogy , the 1992 film was more a documentary style than its counterparts. That said, Luhrmann’s distinct style is still abundantly clear with the extravagant characters; pulsating soundtrack and showman feel are very much evident. 

Will Young in Strictly Ballroom The Musical. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

And the musical production certainly stays trues to that original, with the only notable difference being the introduction of the character of Wally Strand, the bandleader who acts as the narrator and the soundtrack to the production.  It’s a great role for Will Young as it allows him to showcase not only his wonderful vocals but also show his cheeky side too - think Freddie Mercury in sequins.

Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen are bursting with chemistry in their roles as Scott and Fran.  There is a talented supporting cast too with Anna Francolini was Shirley Hastings, the ultimate ‘Dance Mom’ who will stop at nothing to ensure her son wins.  Whilst the Donald Trump inspired President of the dance floor, Barry Fyfe (played by Gerard Horan) has built a career on his steps and will stop at nothing to ensure that his rules aren’t broken.

Director and Choreographer, Drew McOnie is perfect choice to create a show about a dancer who breaks the rules, having been a rule breaker himself many moons ago when he appeared on BBC’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’  He has come a long way since then and is proving he is a real star of modern musical theatre. 

Jonny Labey, Lauren Stroud, Will Young, Michelle Bishop and Gary Watson (l-r) in Strictly Ballroom The Musical. Photo by Johan Persson.jpg

Of course, Drew’s work is made all the more easier by having such an iconic soundtrack which features music such as ‘Love is in the Air’, ‘Time After Time’ and ‘Teardrops’ which is delivered stripped back so Will Young’s haunting beautiful vocals can sway across audience like a sashaying rumba move.

Then there is Catherine Martin’s decadent and Instagram filtered costumes that prove why she really is the deserved four-time Oscar-winner designer that she is. 

For me, whilst ‘Strictly Ballroom The Musical’ does not have the spectacular grand feel of shows like ‘42nd Street’ and ‘Hamilton’; what the show lacks in size, it makes up for with a genuine warmth and humour.  It’s the ultimate feel good - think of ‘Dirty Dancing’ with the heart of ‘Billy Elliot’ and you are there...just with more sparkle, sass and of course sequins.

‘Strictly Ballroom – The Musical’, now running at Piccadilly Theatre