Review - Strictly Ballroom (Piccadilly Theatre)

Scott Hastings has been dancing for his entire life, and looks set to take home the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Amateur Five Dance Latin American Championship trophy. That is until he starts improvising his own moves on the dance floor and is unceremoniously dumped by his partner just weeks before the big competition. Enter Fran, a meek beginner with two left feet who also has a passion for making up her own moves. Despite their different backgrounds, the pair join forces, and dance their way past corrupt competition bigwigs, cunning competitors, and, of course, Scott’s overbearing dance mom. 
Zizi Strallen and Jonny Labey in Strictly Ballroom
Photo credit - Johan Persson
Adapted from Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 film, Drew McOnie’s vibrant jukebox musical is big on laughs and even bigger on jawdropping choreography. As the name suggests, Strictly Ballroom is a nonstop technicolour whirlwind of ballroom dance, which explodes into every corner of the stage. The show is helmed by Zizi Strallen and Jonny Labey, a couple of firecrackers who dazzle in every scene they share.

New to the show is X Factor winner Matt Cardle, who takes over from Will Young as Wally Strand, the exuberant master of ceremonies who leads the audience through the show’s antics with an effortless blend of cheeky charisma and powerful vocals. After making his much lauded West End debut in Memphis the Musical back in 2015, Matt Cardle has proven himself a talented musical theatre actor. He’ll surely become known as a dependable musical theatre name if he continues to take on roles in musicals which showcase his likability as much as Strictly Ballroom does. 
The cast of Strictly Ballroom
Photo credit - Johan Persson
Drew McOnie’s direction and choreography brings a surreal sleekness to the musical’s proceedings, whilst sets by Soutra Gilmour and costumes by Catherine Martin give the production a charming cartoon-like quality. Strictly Ballroom is a musical which is totally unashamed of what it is: boisterous, in-your-face fun! It’s over-the-top, diamante encrusted, and fuelled by frenzied energy, and it’s totally impossible to resist. And maybe it’s partially down to the fact that Strictly Ballroom is a jukebox musical, packed with enticing hits like Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself and Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, but there are also a number of surprisingly emotional moments, which keep the musical at least fractionally grounded when it needs to be.

It’s not going to change the face of musical theatre forever, but Strictly Ballroom is full-out entertainment with a capital ‘E’, which will have audiences walking away with a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye.

I was invited to review Strictly Ballroom thanks to London Box Office