Theatre Review: STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL – The Lowry, Salford

Kevin Clifton and Faye Brooks in STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL

Kevin Clifton and Faye Brooks in STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL

Despite being unpolished in places, STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL captures the quirky Australian charm of the movie thanks to its vibrant set and talented cast performance.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Kevin Clifton makes a welcome return to the ballroom in the musical adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s cult 1992 film, STRICTLY BALLROOM, marking a full-circle moment for the professional dancer after his 2018 victory on STRICTLY COME DANCING.

Set in early 1990s Australia, STRICTLY BALLROOM follows Scott Hastings (Clifton), a rebellious young ballroom dancer disillusioned with traditional dance steps. When his radical dance style meets with the strict disapproval of others, Scott teams up with dance novice Fran (Faye Brooks) to challenge tradition, break the mould, and secure victory at the Australian Pan Pacific Championships, fuelled by their newfound love and passion.

Faye Brooks and the cast of STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL

Faye Brooks and the cast of STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL

Directed and choreographed by STRICTLY COME DANCING judge Craig Revel Horwood, STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL has undergone several revisions since its 2018 UK debut, where it opened in London’s West End to mixed reviews.

True to the film, the stage production is a vibrant spectacle of colour, music, and dance. Mark Walters’ set and costume design, adorned with ostrich feathers, glitterballs, and eccentric costumes, captures the quirky Australian charm of the movie, while Dustin Conrad’s band sets the stage ablaze with their musical prowess.

The larger-than-life characters are perfectly portrayed by the talented cast. As Scott, Clifton delivers a captivating performance with his incredible dance moves and boyish charm.

Faye Brooks is equally mesmerizing as dance novice Fran. Her lovely singing voice and impressive comedic flair bring the character to life and delivers the emotional heart of the show.

Kevin Clifton and Faye Brooks in STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL

Kevin Clifton and Faye Brooks in STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL

Together, they form a dynamic stage partnership, striking the right balance between steamy and sweet in their climactic paso double.

Other notable performances include Nikki Belsher as Scott’s pushy mother, Shirley, Kieran Cooper as ballroom judge Barry Fife, and Jose Agudo as Fran’s protective father, Rico.

Yet, while this latest iteration is certainly an improvement on the 2018 stage show, it still feels unpolished in places. The show falters in its pacing, with the first act feeling overlong and the second act appearing rushed.

STRICTLY BALLROOM also suffers from musical unevenness. The show works best when it uses tracks from the film’s memorable soundtrack, such as LOVE IS IN THE AIR, PERHAPS, PERHAPS, PERHAPS and TIME AFTER TIME, but most of the original songs are unforgettable and don’t really add anything to the plot.

That said, the choreography is the true highlight of the show, with Revel-Horwood and co-choreographer Jason Gilkison creating a visually spectacular piece that showcases traditional ballroom with a modern flare. One standout scene is Jose Agudo’s mesmerizing showcase of the Paso Doble technique, its stripped-back rhythm showcasing the authenticity of flamenco.

If you’re seeking an evening filled with light-hearted entertainment, STRICTLY BALLROOM delivers precisely that. This quirky comedy boasts a colourful cast of wacky characters who grace the stage with their charm, guaranteeing a joyous and laughter-filled experience.

STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 1 July 2023