Latest Review – Strictly Ballroom The Musical 🪩 [The Lowry, Salford Quays]


The Lowry, Salford Quays

Until Saturday 1st July 2023

Released in 1992, Baz Luhrmann’s feature directorial debut Strictly Ballroom premiered to great acclaim and became an instant cult hit, immersing audiences in the cutthroat world of competitive ballroom dancing and captivating with its combination of irresistible exuberance, slick choreography and gritty production values.

It wasn’t until 2014 however that a long-awaited musical adaptation first premiered at the Sydney Lyric Theatre in Australia; a production which has since toured across Oz and later transferred to London’s West End in 2018, with a newly revised staging.

This new touring production is helmed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood and co-choreographed by Horwood and Strictly‘s Director of Choreography, Jason Gilkison, a former professional ballroom and Latin champion in his own right, though for all its promise – and despite the impressive creative team behind it – the show itself is ultimately an underwhelming one.

Strictly Ballroom was never going to win any awards for its plot – which is thin, to say the least – but the main issue here is that the musical adaptation just doesn’t really work.

The book is problematic and littered with cliched dialogue, too many cringeworthy jokes that fall flat, and gratuitous sex references that are completely unnecessary.

The film always had plenty of camp, off-beat humour, but it worked. That was part of its surreal charm. Here, the excessive pantomime-esque staging heightens the comedic elements just too much and, in doing so, weakens the more poignant and meaningful aspects of the show. The original songs too are weak and do very little to drive or complement the narrative.

Given the original film was expanded by Luhrmann from his own short play of the same name, you can’t help but feel the whole thing would be far more successful as a more serious straight play with dance. It is the musical aspect that lets it down.

The cast, however, are largely excellent. Though they aren’t helped by the material they are given, the strong triple-threat ensemble do an impressive job in carrying the show.

Strictly champion Kevin Clifton and Faye Brookes are excellent together and have a wonderful chemistry as the musical’s central pairing. Clifton’s dancing is magnificent – as you might expect – and he demonstrates a strong voice and impressive acting chops as amateur dance star Scott Hastings. Brookes’ characterisation as the shy beginner Fran is fabulous and she really lifts the production whenever she is on the stage. Quinn Patrick and Jose Agudo are particular standouts in the supporting cast.

There may be issues with the pacing, the book and the original songs but, thankfully, the thrilling dance content is by far the strongest aspect of the show, and there is plenty of it!

The real highlight of the production is the scintillating finale to Act One, which concludes with a sensational Paso Doble stand-off and develops into an equally mesmerising Libertango masterclass. A truly joyous and memorable celebration of Latin dance and culture.

Yes the show has its flaws but if you’re going along purely to enjoy the dancing then you won’t be disappointed.

A sharper book and a more restrained staging could really transform this show into something special, though in its current form, it feels like an opportunity missed.

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 1st July 2023.

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.

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