The cult Aussie ballroom dancing love story takes to the floor
Practice your Bogo Pogo, Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom the Musical is here! In 1992 the now iconic first instalment of Luhrmann’s three Red Curtain productions hit screens around the world showcasing a mass of Australian talent. The film's cult following eventually inspired the mega successful TV series Strictly Come Dancing and In 2014 it was first adapted for stage and has been touring since.
If you aren’t familiar with the film, you may find this musical a little bizarre. As it relies on the audience's familiarity with the story and imagery. However, if you are new to the party, you will still have a ball.
Actually longer than the film but following it closely, we are introduced the world of open amateur ballroom dancing in small town 1980s Australia, with all the glitz, feathers, hairspray and daggers you could imagine!
Scott Hastings (played by Paul Mecurio in the film and perfectly by Strictly Come Dancing professional Kevin Clifton on stage) is a young amateur champion Latin American dancer. His parent were both dancers, now running a dance school, and have been keen to see him rise to the top of the sport. His mum, Shirley, is a hairspray encased force of nature and determined that Scott achieves the dreams she never did. In doing so she loses sight of the fun, excitement and possible innovation of the sport - something Scott yearns for.
Meanwhile Fran (Faye Brookes) is a beginner at the dance school, a little awkward and shy but with big dreams of her own. Constantly overlooked and belittled, Fran is impressed when Scott breaks dance federation rules and dances steps which aren’t ‘Strictly Ballroom’. She plucks up the courage to ask Scott to dance with her and with some persuasion he agrees. It’s a feel-good tale so you can guess how it goes.
The set is simple but cleverly lit, with slices of scenery sliding on and off to tell you where the cast are, with accents of feathers and sparkles to match the amazing outfits spinning past.
Craig Revel Horwood and Jason Gilkison's choreography, is quick and precise, with the large cast performing some amazing big whirling routines. Kevin Clifton was the perfect Scott Hastings and Faye Brookes worked beautifully with him. The supporting cast were excellent, with highlights from Quinn Patrick as Les Kendall, Keiran Cooper as Barry Fife and Edwin Ray as Ken.
They do a great job on the film's favourite songs Time After Time, Love is in the Air and Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps as well as some lively original numbers for this stage version.
This pastiche love story has elements of Romeo and Juliet, The Ugly Duckling and Dirty Dancing but with a humour and tenderness that will make you smile, cry, cheer and boo! Each character as unique and colourful as those in the film.
My only criticism is as an Australian, oh the Aussie accents. With the exception of Kevin Clifton they ranged from cockney to Kiwi! It’s a hard one to master but they got the steps and songs bang on. There were heaps of strictly fans in the audience and they loved it, all up on there own feet at the end.
Strictly Ballroom plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 23 June 2023.
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