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Review / Strictly Ballroom The Musical - at the Piccadilly Theatre

How does the musical adaption of Baz Luhrmann's 1992 movie hold up?

2018-04-27

As the snake-hipped hero of Strictly Ballroom Jonny Labey has cheekbones so razor-sharp you could grate cheese on them.

That's just as well because this stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann's 1992 movie is cheesier than a cheddar factory and I mean that as a compliment. It's a colourful disco ball of a show that's all tinsel, tits and puffball sleeves and the campest thing on any West End stage.

Pretty much a scene-by-scene recreation of the film, it's all about Jonny's Scott Hastings – a dancer who wants to do his own steps even though the powers-that-be forbid such fancy footwork.

When his regular partner is injured, Scott reluctantly takes up with Fran, a frumpy and dumpy wannabe dancer who blossoms into a beautiful butterfly - although she's played by the sensationally taut Zizi Strallen so her transformation is easy to see coming.

 

Comedy hell breaks loose and Will Young's Wally Strand, a character invented for the show, is on hand to oversee it all. Singing a treasure trove of pop tunes from Love Is In The Air to I Wanna Dance With Somebody via Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps and Time After Time, he out-camps everyone and everything in the show.

Sashaying around the stage and in and out of the action, he's like a cheekier, more benign version of the Emcee from Cabaret as he introduces characters, comments on the action and rushes the plot forward.

Having strutted his stuff on Dance Dance Dance, EastEnders star Jonny is a trained dancer but seems to be straining a bit with some of the trickier routines. That said, he's got charisma to spare.

Strallen does gawky very well and glamorous even better, and the supporting cast are all brilliant, as are the choreography, sets and costumes.

It's not strictly a musical since Will's Wally sings pretty much all of the songs. He sings them brilliantly too but I'd have preferred a proper musical since there's nothing more uplifting than having characters express their emotions through song as well as dance.

But as fast-paced and zany as the film, the show is a ballroom blitz whose high spirits are impossible to resist.

Rating: 4/5

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Words by Simon Button