Baz Luhrmann’s successful 1992 film has been adapted for the stage, into Strictly Ballroom the Musical, directed by the renowned Craig Revel Horwood. 

Credit: Ellie Kurttz

Fran (Maisie Smith) is from a religious Spanish background, and her dance tradition is Strictly Flamenco. Scott (Kevin Clifton) is from the ballroom dance world, yet he has his own “maverick” style which earns him disdain from his conventionally-minded colleagues. Both Fran and Scott are trying to break out of these restrictions; this young pair wants to dance their own way at the national championships. They are an unlikely pairing with similarities that turn into something more with every step. 

This show encompasses dialogue from the film and parallels some jump-cut sequences from the film. However, the overall pace felt rather long-winded and lackluster for a production that should be high energy throughout. Act One felt never-ending, and parts felt poorly-timed and almost cringeworthy. The stand-out moment is the brilliantly executed Paso Doble danced by Jose Agudo playing Rico, which bought the audience to first a complete silence and then abundant applause. 

Leading the show is Strictly professional Clifton. I feel a large number of the audience may be drawn in by the name, as he was greeted with applause following his first entrance. Clifton channels charisma into his performance, but unfortunately his onstage chemistry with Smith falls a little flat. Visually they are a stunning couple and dance beautifully together, though I was left wanting more from their duets and moments of intimacy. Although they can both hold a tune, the singing wasn’t powerful enough to add any impact to the songs. I feel many other triple threat performers could have carried these roles better. 

Mark Sangster (Doug Hastings) provides a notable, heartwarming performance, meaning I felt empathy for the character throughout. A throwback sequence is staged well, and his facial expressions make it all the better. Nikki Belsher’s performance as Shirley Hastings feels the most true to the film, and it was a pleasure to watch her bring this character to life with joyful overacting. High praise also goes to Liv Alexander, covering the role of Liz. She kept the energy high throughout and showed undeniable talent and passion in all the performances, which is all the more impressive as she was also part of the ensemble. Her energy was so high that in some cases she overshadowed other performers.

Credit: Ellie Kurttz

The show’s soundtrack combines popular songs such as ‘Love is in the Air’ and ‘Time After Time’ with music written specifically for the show. These numbers are unfortunately not memorable and add no emotion to the piece; they only distract from what otherwise could have been beautiful moments. It begs the question, “Does this show need to be a musical when the dancing is and should be enough on its own?”

Regardless, for a show that is based on dancing, I feel as though none of the dancing is as mesmerising as it should be, and many points, such as the solo dancing by Clifton, feel underwhelming and could’ve been a lot more fun. Yet, it is clear to see from the cast and ensemble that there are high levels of talent in the production in this area.

It is hard to believe that the set and costumes were designed by the same person. Mark Walters’ costumes are breathtaking. They work well – glittering and eye-catching – given the lighting choices by Richard G. Jones. They really are a highlight of the entire show. However, the same cannot be said for the set design. which restricts the space and boxes in the dancers. The screen at the back of the stage is distracting and at times so pixelated that I couldn’t make out what it was supposed to be depicting. 

For a show that is over the top and outlandish, I feel so much more could have been done with it. The overall combination of old and new is let down by its outdated points, bizarre sequences, and missed opportunities. If you are going to watch this adaptation of the classic film, then I think you may go away disappointed. However, if you are going with no expectations, then you may find this to be a fun night out. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply