Baz Luhrman brought his short play, Strictly Ballroom, to the big screen in 1992. Both the play and movie received glowing reviews, with compelling scripts and excellent performances from their actors. Now, the famous play has been transformed into a musical, and it doesn’t disappoint. It can be seen at the Piccadilly Theatre, and anyone who was a fan of the original play or extended film version will be sure to enjoy this production.
It should be no surprise that Strictly Ballroom tells the story of two competitive ballroom dancers making their way through the Australian dance circuits. Throughout their quest, there is plenty of drama, romance, and humor to be had. Much like the film, the musical finds the perfect balance of silly and serious, letting the audience become attached to the characters but not tearing out their hearts or getting overly emotional.
Drew McOnie acts as the director and choreographer for Strictly Ballroom, and he does a marvelous job juggling both tasks. His credits include Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, Chicago, and The Sound of Music, so we know that he has the chops to put together a fantastic musical production. He recognizes that this story is one that is supposed to be fun while also maintaining a level of drama. We see that in the interactions between cast members and the whimsical dance numbers that make use of both classic and modern moves.
We can’t say enough about the performances of Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen as Scott Hastings and Fran, respectively. Their chemistry together is uncanny, and they are truly able to draw the audience in with their acting skills. They can transition between funny and serious easily, keeping the mood of the production lighthearted but creating plenty of tension where it is needed. Will Young brings a strong performance as Wally Strand and Michelle Bishop portrays Pam in a perfectly humorous way.
In a musical about ballroom dancing, you would hope that the music is exceptional, and that is certainly true of Strictly Ballroom. The songs are catchy but complex, providing the perfect backdrop for the impressive dance moves that the cast members perform throughout the production. With McOnie’s direction, the characters interact with ease and glide through their moves effortlessly, leaving the audience with a glitzy, glamorous show that is meant to impress. There may be a lot of sequins here, but they work with the theme.
Overall, Strictly Ballroom is a fantastic production that will impress both fans of the original play and those who have never heard of it. The cast and crew do an outstanding job of bringing the characters to life and drawing the audience in. The music, direction, sound, and light are nearly flawless, creating the perfect atmosphere for a story about competitive dance. There are emotional moments, but none so heavy as to take away from the overall upbeat feeling of this wonderful musical.