Theatre / Feature

All you need to know about Strictly Ballroom

The musical is now running at London's Piccadilly Theatre.

Before director Baz Luhrmann created the likes of the DiCaprio and Danes masterpiece Romeo & Juliet and the showstopping Moulin Rouge, he celebrated his breakthrough with his 1992 film Strictly Ballroom. Luhrmann had however originally envisaged the story as a play (there were early stage versions), something that began to become true reality over two decades later. Having opened in the director’s native Australia in 2014, it first appeared in the UK in 2016. Now the glitzy tale reaches London’s West End for the first time at the Piccadilly Theatre.

Here’s everything you need to know about Strictly Ballroom.


What is Strictly Ballroom about?

Strictly Ballroom surrounds maverick championship ballroom dancer Scott Hastings as he defies all the rules of competition to follow his heart.

Scott reinvents ballroom dancing, adding his personal touch to the otherwise traditional dance. After losing his partner, he teams up with outsider Fran (played in the film by Tara Morice), who is new to dancing.

Teaming up with left-footed Fran, the pair succeed at the Pan Pacifics.

The musical features classic songs from the film, including Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, and Time After Time.


Who stars in Strictly Ballroom?

The lead dancers in the Drew McOnie-directed and choreographed production are Jonny Labey, who stars as Scott Hastings, and Zizi Strallen as Fran.

The cast also currently includes best-selling recording artist and The X Factor winner Matt Cardle – who was last seen in the West End playing the lead role of Huey Calhoun in Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre, a role while won him the WhatsOnStage Best West End Debut award.


What can audiences expect from Strictly Ballroom?

The show thrives on its cheeky and camp nature, brimming with fun and fizzing with humour. The characters are as colourful as the sparkling sequin costumes; costume designer Catherine Martin providing many of the show’s visual highlights.

The dancing is spectacular, with a particularly strong turn by Fernando Mira as Rico who delivers a show-stealing performance with his fierce and feverish Paso Doble towards the end of the first act.

Leads Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen are on excellent form. There’s a lovable chemistry between them, encouraging the audience to root for them to break free from the chains of traditional ballroom dancing.

While Labey has a breakout moment near the beginning of the show, showing exactly what he’s made of through an intricate solo routine soundtracked by the Billy Idol hit Dancing With Myself, it’s Strallen’s transformation as Fran – from dowdy dance studio cleaner to Ballroom temptress – that is most striking. Her movement of the dance floor is simply breathtaking.

Through it all, the musical is underpinned by Wally’s characteristic delivery of the show’s biggest songs, including Time After Time, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps and Love is in the Air, which are dall delivered perfectly by Cardle’s signature falsetto.


Who else is behind the Strictly Ballroom scenes?

Baz Luhrmann not only created Strictly Ballroom bust wrote the book alongside fellow Sydney resident Craig Pearce. Luhrmann has five films under his directing belt including Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia and The Great Gatsby. Most recently he directed the Netflix series The Get Down.

The West End production of Strictly Ballroom sees direction and choreography by Drew McOnie, who won the Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreography for In The Heights and was nominated for the same award for Jesus Christ Superstar.


What are the critics saying?

“[Will Young’s] singing voice, fluid and strong, casts its own spell, bringing a kind of pop pizzaz to proceedings… [Drew McOnie’s] choreography throughout is sensational and inventive; his direction fluent, keeping control of the frenzy.” ★★★★ – WhatsOnStage

“Catherine Martin supplies an unforgettable parade of outlandish dancewear: luminous shades, era-perfect silhouettes, liberally festooned with sequins and feathers.” ★★★★ – Broadway World

“[I]t’s got enough talent and relentless invention to make it exhilarating.” ★★★★ – TimeOut


What else do I need to know?

Strictly Ballroom is open now at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, booking until the 20 October 2018.

Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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