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Strictly Ballroom at Bromley Theatre – UK Tour

Strictly Ballroom started out in 1992 as a highly rated and critically acclaimed film written and directed by Baz Luhrmann. Then in 2011, it was turned into Strictly Ballroom The Musical and it has had a checkered history ever since then. There have been a number of productions some using pre-existing songs and some using pre-existing songs combined with songs written especially for the show – the version that’s now touring the UK is of the latter variety. This production too has had its problems as it was due to start touring in September 2020 but covid put paid to that and the tour was put off until September 2022 when it opened in Portsmouth before arriving in Bromley this week before setting off all around the UK well into 2023.

Kevin Clifton - Credit Ellie Kurttz.
Kevin Clifton – Credit Ellie Kurttz.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical is set in Australia in 1990 and tells the story of ballroom dancer Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton) who no longer wants to dance the strict steps that are set down by the Australian Dancing Federation – but his steps are regarded as too flashy and not strictly ballroom. After losing his regular partner, he finds Fran (Maisie Smith) who’s a novice dancer but who he feels is right for him both as a dance partner and eventually as a romantic partner. They go through various problems and fights with the federation and his family before everything works out in the end – well this is a feel-good musical after all.

If the plot sounds pretty flimsy, it is but with the pedigree of the film and the creatives involved, you’d hope that the costumes, the performances, the choreography and the songs would paper over the cracks but unfortunately in this production, those elements just don’t work. For most of the show, you only get fragments of the songs and the dance routines. Clifton who came to fame as one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing hardly gets to strut his stuff as the dance numbers are truncated to fit in some dialogue or a song. Smith who’s best known for being Tiffany Butcher in Eastenders sings well but we don’t really get to see her dance very much.

The biggest problem with the show is that everyone shouts VERY, VERY LOUDLY! There’s no light or shade or nuance – it’s all very broad and very brash. There’s even a sequence when one of the characters gets a blowjob under the bed covers whilst some men in their underwear urinate against the wall surrounded by scantily dressed women who then along with the men, give the middle finger for some obscure reason – all very crude and unnecessary.

Of the existing songs used in the show, Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time” is used quite a lot as is John Paul Young’s “Love Is In The Air”. There’s also “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” as it’s listed in the programme but as it’s sung in Spanish, maybe it should have said “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas”? As for the mostly very ordinary songs written especially for the show, I scoured the programme to see who wrote them but nobody seems to have owned up to being the culprit.

However, it’s not quite all doom and gloom. The standout performer is Karen Mann as Abuela (Fran’s grandmother) who dials down her performance and doesn’t shout every line.

Then as the icing on the cake, she also plays the trumpet during the scene where Fran who comes from what seems to be a Latin American background goes home for a party. There her family and friends seem to be dressed in clothes from the forties – very odd. This scene is the best In the show and there’s an excellent flamenco sequence where Jose Agudo as Fran’s Father dances fabulously and almost stops the show.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical has a lot of problems which some superb ballroom costumes, an interesting set and some video projections can’t deflect from. It’s directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood who as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing is famous for giving the celebrity dancers low marks. In the case of Strictly Ballroom The Musical I have to do the same.

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Strictly Ballroom the Musical, based on the award‐winning worldwide film phenomenon, is heading out to tour the UK and Ireland, starring Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton!

With direction from dancer, choreographer, theatre director and Britain’s favourite TV Judge, Craig Revel Horwood, Strictly Ballroom the Musical will be foxtrotting around the UK from October 2022.

Strictly Ballroom
Directed by Craig Revel Horwood
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
MON 3 – SAT 8 OCTOBER 2022
https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/

Sunderland Empire
Mon 10 Oct – Sat 15 Oct 2022

Liverpool Empire
Mon 17 Oct – Sat 22 Oct 2022

New Wimbledon Theatre
Mon 7 Nov – Sat 12 Nov 2022

Milton Keynes Theatre
Mon 3 Apr – Sat 8 Apr 2023

Grand Opera House York
Mon 24 Apr – Sat 29 Apr 2023

Edinburgh Playhouse
Mon 8 May – Sat 13 May 2023

Theatre Royal Glasgow
Mon 5 Jun – Sat 10 Jun 2023

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Mon 12 Jun – Sat 17 Jun 2023

Bristol Hippodrome Theatre
Mon 10 Jul – Sat 15 Jul 2023

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