Sunday, 3 June 2018

Strictly Ballroom the Musical - Piccadilly Theatre


Though it’s been at Piccadilly Theatre for two months now, Strictly Ballroom the Musical is a show I knew very little about. Besides being aware that Will Young had taken up a lead role, I hadn’t indulged at all in researching the show and unusually and unintentionally had read very few reviews. While I welcome the ‘going in blind’ approach, in this case not being prepared for the hyperbolic style and farcical humour presented an initial barrier. 

Strictly Ballroom the Musical is based on the 1992 film, which was in fact first adapted from an earlier play. Co-writers of the film, Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, additionally wrote the book, with the score comprising of existing well-known songs. The crux of the plot is the fictional Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship, as protagonist Scott Hastings (Jonny Labey) attempts to rebelliously dance his way to victory with unofficial steps.

Will Young is a huge marketing draw for the show, and although he has the opportunity to showcase some extent of his vocal talent, his MC role is wedged awkwardly into the show, clumsily shoehorning what would otherwise be a play into a musical. Having seen his Olivier-nominated performance as Emcee in Cabaret, this cheap set-up undermines his ability and shows to be nothing more than the culture of throwing celebrities on stage to draw in wider audiences. Will Young’s prior performance proved him a much more valuable asset.

Though the plot is predictable and humour forced, effective staging and direction make for a fast-paced and often dazzling production, with Drew McOnie’s choreography and movement filling any lulling gaps. Pieces of set and cast alike swish across the stage, distracting the eye from the lacklustre book.
 
The climactic dance moments from duo Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen are truly breathtaking, losing the audience in a choreographic narrative. While characters are far from believable - and of course this is completely the intention - the cast give it their all.
 
Strictly Ballroom is by no means a masterpiece or innovative piece of theatre, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and does what it suggests on the tin - it’s an evening of simple, silly fun. 

Strictly Ballroom the Musical is currently booking until 20th October 2018.

*I was gifted this ticket in exchange for a review, but all words and opinions are my own.
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