Reviewed by Emma Rogers
Strictly Ballroom, the Australian stage show adapted from Baz Luhrmann’s film of the same name, is showing the Brits how Australia do dance, comedy, and a few other things as well.
Matt Cardell (winner of the X Factor) plays the narrator with a think Australian accent, punctuating the storyline with adapted pop songs like Whitney Houston’s “I Want To Dance With Somebody” and George Michael’s “Freedom” among other songs. Following a similar story to Dirty Dancing, Scott Hastings (played by Jonny Labey) has a pudgy mother who along with “Uncle Les” has coached him from the age of 6 to eventually win the State Championships in Ballroom dancing. Scott has other ideas though when he wants to break away from conventional ballroom dancing, but no one supports him in his freestyle antics, not least of all his dance partner Liz, who leaves him for the glamorous competition.
The comedy arrived in several suits; some of the OTT Australian accents, the look-a-like president of the Australian National Ballroom Association, and hilarious monologues from Scott’s mother, Shirley. The whole cast camps up the show with their flamboyant dancing and great costumes. Watch out for the exaggerated names as well and some shifty moved from “Doug” when no one’d looking.
Scott is left without a partner so Fran, the dowdy gosling at the dance studio, volunteers herself forward to learn the steps and take part in the Pan Pacific Grand Prix dance competition. Scott is obviously dubious, but you’ll have to see the show to see how it turns out!
Also take note of the Spanish father and grandmother of Fran, who add some more entertainment. Don’t worry, Fran translates most of what’s said on stage but if you speak Spanish you’re definitely at an advantage.
The show is a riotously camp sends up of the inter-generational tensions that exist in our cultures, but also a send- up of our modern society’s obsession with winning and glory.
The story is easy to follow, and if you know enough about Australia, the Aussie jokes add to the ambiance too. It’s not the most high-brow show but the choreography is good, the costumes flamboyant and the songs very catchy.
Tickets cost from £15 to £99.50 (plus £3.50 transaction fee).
Strictly Ballroom The Musical is at the Piccadilly Theatre in London until 20 October 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/piccadillytheatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7630.
Piccadilly Theatre, 16 Denman Street, London, W1D 7DY | 0844 871 7630