Strictly Ballroom: The Musical – Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London

Reviewer: Christine Stanton

Book: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

Director: Craig Revel Horwood

Scott Hastings, champion ballroom dancer since he was 6 years old wants to break away from the traditional dance moves imposed by the stuffy Australian dance federation and shine at the next championship with his own unique routine. Struggling to find a partner to help break conformity, he takes on Fran – a beginner at the dance school, who is full of rhythm and enthusiasm, but lacking in experience. Together they plan to fight with a foxtrot, win with a waltz and tantalise with a tango.

Maisie Smith, best known for her 13-year stint on EastEnders and for being one of 2020’s Strictly contestants, debuts her character Fran by singing a song called Beautiful Surprise – with the most beautiful surprise of the evening being her fantastically impressive vocal talents. Her voice brings a chill to the spine, and immediately sets a high bar for the rest of the performance, which her and her castmates easily meet. Kevin Clifton, playing Scott Hastings, gets his chance to showcase his dance moves that he’s loved for on Strictly Come Dancing, just as remarkable on stage as he is on the small screen. The synergy between the two leads is faultless, elevating the comedic scenes with natural realism, gently broaching the romance between the characters and confidentially displaying their well-rehearsed dance routines.

Craig Revel Horwood is a fabulous director and co-choreographer. Each scene is executed flawlessly, with an expert balance of scripted storyline, musical numbers and choreographed routines. The dances are mesmerising, every move synchronised and artistically performed. One of the most impressive routines is the paso doble scene, where Jose Agudo playing Rico, teaches Scott how to feel the rhythm when he dances. Stripped back and technically focused, it has the audience in awe and is a perfect way to end the first act. The gorgeous costumes and set designed by Mark Walters add to each routine, the glittering outfits dazzling under the spotlight and contributing to every twirl, spin and lift.

While it’s a predictable plot that embodies a typical zero to hero style dance championship, it has the feel-good factor in abundance. Throughout the whole show the audience are shimmying in their seats, smiling along with the comedic characters and gazing adoringly at the brewing romance on stage. With popular songs such as Love is in the Air and Time After Time, the audience are in familiar territory, with excellent original scores embedded into the performance also, such as Strictly Ballroom and Beautiful Surprise which stops the show from being a full-blown jukebox musical.

It may only take two to tango, but it clearly takes a party to paso doble and a wonderful creative team both on and off stage to bring to life this strictly superb, ballroom brilliance on stage.

Runs until 8 October 2022, then continues to tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Strictly Superb, Ballroom Brilliance

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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