Book: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
Director: Craig Revel Horwood
Strictly Ballroom, based on the popular Baz Luhrmann film, is currently touring the UK after enjoying runs at Leeds Playhouse (formerly West Yorkshire Playhouse) and in the West End. This is a new production directed by Craig Revel Horwood of Strictly Come Dancing fame. The show tells the story of Scott Hastings, a rebellious ballroom dancer, who decides to try and put his own stamp on ballroom dance with beginner Fran. It is a fun show featuring the songs everyone knows from the film (Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time) alongside an original score from Sia, David Foster, Eddie Perfect and others.
As one would expect, Craig Revel Horwood and Jason Gilkison’s choreography in this show is great. It is well performed by a strong cast and covers a wide range of styles. However Mark Walters’ set design means that some routines aren’t given the space they need. The playing space is very limited and some routines, such as the first time Time After Time appears, feel very cramped and like they need a more expansive dance floor. Walters’ costumes are colourful and the ballroom costumes are some life to an otherwise bland stage, although many of the wigs look very cheap.
Kevin Clifton, best known for being a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, leads the cast as Scott Hastings. He gives a strong performance and portrays the character’s development well. However, having seen his performance as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, your reviewer is very aware that his singing and acting ability are much higher than this role allows him to demonstrate.
There is a strong supporting cast around Clifton who all give entertaining performances. Nikki Belsher is perfectly unlikeable as Shirley Hastings and Mark Sangster gives a funny performance as Doug Hastings, whilst delivering the moments of tenderness beautifully. Quinn Patrick is great fun as Les Kendall whilst Gary Davis is wonderfully villainous as Barry Fife. Davis’ vocals are very powerful and a joy to listen to, even if his songs aren’t necessarily the best in the show. Jose Agudo has a great intensity as Rico and Karen Mann gives a lovely performance as Abuela. Agnes Pure adds a whole lot of energy to the show as Liz and Kieran Cooper as Wayne is a revelation. He makes a lot out of what could be seen as a side character and every moment of his is a joy to watch.
At this performance, in the absence of Maisie Smith, Maddy Ambus took on the role of Fran and she stole the show. Her vocals are stunning, she dances beautifully and she brings to life the journey that Fran goes on exceptionally. Ambus is definitely one to watch as she progresses into the rest of her career.
Strictly Ballroom is a fun show and is an easy night out. It’s not high brow entertainment, but it never aims to be, and it is packed full of fantastic dancing. One just wishes a little more money had been invested to make the show the glitzy production it deserves to be and that it probably was in previous productions in the country.
Runs until 13th December 2022.