I’ve been holding onto a ticket for Strictly Ballroom The Musical tickets since the day they were released. Before any casting announcements, before I knew the plot and before they decided they had to push the previews back a week and I had to reschedule the visit. Fortunately my mum was buzzing about this being one of her Christmas presents from me when I told her that Will Young was one of the stars, and he has been her number one since his Pop Idol days.
Strictly Ballroom was written in 1984 whilst Baz Luhrmann was a college student. He then directed the 1992 film of the same name, well before he created the 1996 Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge (soon to be opening on Broadway starring my number one, Aaron Tveit) films everyone knows and loves. A top-drawer Australian ballroom dancer doesn’t want to follow the structure set by competition rules, so teams up with a beginner to choreograph something he’s really passionate about with the help of her family.
When I booked the tickets to this, I thought it would be a musical. You know, that the stars of the show would be singing themselves, but instead it was a dance show with Will Young narrating and singing the well-known hits that feature in the film. Now I bought these tickets before Will Young was announced as Wally but I had to say I was excited when I found out. He was my first proper concert, and I was excited to relive it, although I wasn’t aware of how much it was about him.
The show itself was good, but it wasn’t my favourite. I have to admit that I saw the production during previews so there was a little polishing still to be done (which I’m sure is all tidied up by now). The choreography was brilliant, but for a dance show it was nothing groundbreaking. The Piccadilly Theatre is definitely the wrong stage for such a dance-heavy show, as it’s just too small for the costumes and choreography. Especially when you factor in the band who are on stage the entire time taking up a huge chunk of available space. I felt that the actors were too restricted and couldn’t perform to their best abilities.
The scenes don’t flow that well, and the book is a little clunky. What may work well on film with scene changes just doesn’t in the theatre. Instead of being its own show, it’s trying to clutch to the film’s fanbase a little too much. But my one big issue is that Will is singing everything, and 8 shows per week is a lot to have to sing alone for two and a half hours. I know he’s previous had a brilliant run as Emcee in Cabaret, but that isn’t a show that relies on just one voice. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m worried that his voice won’t survive his booked run. And when word gets out that this isn’t a musical in the sense of the word, I feel like people won’t want to attend. For me, this would work brilliantly if they switched out the performer every month and give people a shot at seeing their favourite singer in a West End setting.
Strictly Ballroom The Musical will be a hit with the hen parties – think Mamma Mia but on a smaller scale – but will leave most theatre lovers a little underwhelmed. When I book a show with a Strallen sister in, I’m expecting magic. And whilst Zizi’s dancing is fantastic, I didn’t find myself falling in love with any of the characters. And the more shows I see, the more important it is to me to really connect. It’s that connection that makes me want to return, and recommend a show to people over any others. And I just don’t feel like I want to urge people to see this over other shows in the West End. I much preferred the choreography in 42nd Street, and would recommend that over Strictly Ballroom The Musical.
Strictly Ballroom The Muscial is currently playing at the Piccadilly Theatre, and is booking until July 2018.