The Covid lockdowns certainly put paid to my theatre going in 2020. I had 5 shows booked in (dance, musicals and plays), with 1 being cancelled, 1 moving to an online show, and the other 3 being pushed back. Finally 3 years later I got to see Strictly Ballroom the musical on tour, at Milton Keynes Theatre.
I’m a big fan of Milton Keynes Theatre. Because it’s modern, there’s plenty of parking nearby, lots of restaurant options if you want to get pre theatre dinner. And not forgetting some of the comfiest theatre seating and best leg room in any of the theatres I’ve visited before. I’d chosen circle tickets near the middle, and as usual the view was great.
Strictly Ballroom musical is directed by Craig Revel Horwood, and co-choreographed with Jason Gilkison. I had high hopes because Strictly Ballroom is my favourite film, but maybe I’d hyped it up too much in the 3 years of waiting.
The fun aussie accented intro from Craig Revel Horwood was well received and set the tone for the show.
I’m not usually that bothered about seeing understudies or swings performing in place of headline celebrity stars. Quite often you get to see just as good, if not possibly better performers. But on this occasion I was disappointed not to see Kevin Clifton perform. Edwin Ray played Scott Hastings instead, and there were several other characters played by alternative performers. Fay Brookes (I’m told she was in Corrie, and has a musical theatre background) was playing Fran rather than Maisie Smith. I was pleased about this change as I couldn’t see Maisie in the role, Fay is much closer to how the film has Fran.
The story doesn’t veer much from the film which is great for those fans, with a few of the classic songs from the soundtrack ending up in the musical. The other songs are originals. Apart from Beautiful Surprise which I loved, I couldn’t really see any of the other originals to be one I would remember or walk away singing.
I did enjoy the show, but I found a few areas fell a bit flat for me.
Some of the tuning on the songs was a bit off – I couldn’t tell whether it was the mikes making it sound a bit flat, or some of the songs which had unexpected notes in that didn’t sound quite right or as I’d expect them to go tune wise.
I was disappointed in the first solo dance after the first competition where he’d got into trouble for his own steps, where Scott is making up and practising his own steps in the dance studio. For me the choreo was a bit tame, and the dancing was a half hearted and basic. I expected a bit more power and drive, but it felt very amateur. This was the part where I’d have loved to have seen how Kevin Clifton would have performed it.
The scene with Barry Fife, with the dancers in white undies was a bit odd and unnecessary. If you’re taking younger children, there are some sexual innuendos and inappropriate behaviour from Barry which hopefully would go over their heads.
The bits I loved
Danielle Cato playing Tina Sparkle stood out as a beautiful dancer way ahead of the others on stage. Her song was strong too.
I was impressed with Fay as Fran. She played the gawky awkwardness around Scott really well, and you could see the transition to beautiful confident Fran moving through the show.
The ballroom scenes, the costumes, the dancing, it was just as I’d have expected.
The Paso Doble flamenco scene at Fran’s home with her family and friends. Her father was played by Jose Aguda who’s was a stand out performance. He deserved his loud applause after his dance and at the end of the show.
Obviously without the cinematography you get in films, the stage show could never replicate the magic of the final scene at the Pan Pacifics where Scott and Fran dance their own steps. I still felt myself tear up when Doug starts to clap in support of Scott.
Beautiful Surprise – a gorgeous song, sung with emotion by Fran, and a cute ending for Scott and Fran.
Overall, I enjoyed Strictly Ballroom the musical despite the disappointing parts. It has made me want to go back and watch the film again.