Thursday, 26 April 2018

REVIEW: Strictly Ballroom at the Piccadilly theatre


Based on the 1992 Baz Luhrmann film, Strictly Ballroom comes to the West End after having previously had a run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. Directed and Choregraphed by one of the most exciting people in the West End at the moment, Drew McOnie. 

Having not really been a fan of McOnies directing work previously (his choreography however, is ground breaking) I was apprehensive about seeing this production, but I had nothing to worry about. It was smooth, slick and sassy! The scene changes may have been a little too much with unnecessary amounts of scenery, but it was done seamlessly and with grace and personality by the cast.

The concept of the show included having a narrator, Wally Strand (played by Will Young), I followed this and bought into it as I think the show justified it however he sang the whole score which was a complete waste of the talents of this incredible cast. Young played it well with charm and humour but overall, I felt a little disappointed that the musical talents of the company weren’t showcased. 

Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen lead the company as Scott Hastings and Fran, they’re a perfect match in these roles and were completely captivating. Especially Strallen, her control was stunning and she’s able to show her hilarious comedic side in this role. The only thing that’s slightly disappointing is we don’t get the chance to really see what these two can do, the whole show is built up to the moment where they both steal the show with their ballroom routine, but it doesn’t really happen. Not how we wanted it to, anyway. 

James Orange has cast this show fantastically, bringing some of the best talent the West End has to offer and throwing them all into one show! This is a wonderful ensemble show, I’ll try to keep it brief but here’s some of my standouts. 

As most of the characters in the show, Michelle Bishop was a complete scene stealer. She showed so much versatility and was getting all the laughs! I feel like it may have gone over most people’s heads, but she is one you can’t miss in this show!

Charlotte Gooch is a performer I have followed for a while now, and this show just showcases her incredible dance talents. Her ‘Tina Sparkle’ dazzled and those legs went on for days! 

Eve Polycarpou has some pipes, as Frans grandmother she was sweet and delightful and for the little time she was on stage, she was wonderful. As Frans Father, Fernando Mira is one incredible dancer and could easily show some of those younger ones on stage a thing or two! 

Lauren Stroud was another stand out as Liz Holt, I was living for her character every time she was on stage and as the super tanned and drunken Ken Arilings, Gary Watson was hilarious and gave a performance that’ll be hard to forget! In a good way! 

I’d love to point out members of the ensemble as standouts also however they were all so wonderful and in sync but still holding their own characters. 

For me, the star of this show is Anna Francolini as Scott Hastings Mother, Shirley. Her performance was like something out of Absolutely Fabulous and it was one of the best characterisations in the production. I’m thinking an Olivier nomination is totally what she deserves for this. 

This show is filled with fantastic parts, proving that there are no small parts in theatre! Clearly influenced by the direction but the actors have gone wild with their interpretations and it’s just pure brilliance.

Yes, this show has some flaws and it will be criticised, but it is a feel-good show with some fantastic performances. By no means will it change the face of the West End but the joy and passion on that stage deserves a good run. This is the new party show in town, dig your sparkles out and get down to the Piccadilly Theatre! 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, G24 | Price of ticket: £72.50
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