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Review: Strictly Ballroom the Musical at Piccadilly Theatre

Will Young adds wit and energy to an excellently choreographed and dazzling stage production of Baz Luhrmann’s film

30 April, 2018 — By Catherine Usher

Jonny Labey, Lauren Stroud, Will Young, Michelle Bishop and Gary Watson in Strictly Ballroom the Musical. Photo: Johan Persson

The arrival of Strictly Ballroom in the West End heralds an evening of high energy, vibrancy, comedy and innovation.

The quirky vibe of Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 film is very evident – highly strung characters such as Scott’s mum Shirley (Anna Francolini) and his self-centred dance partner Liz (Lauren Stroud) are recreated with all the outrageous humour of the film.

All-round host, compere and band-leader Wally Strand is the ideal platform for Will Young’s myriad of talents. His vocals provide a great reminder of why he won Pop Idol all those years ago. Yes, he has a reputation of being a diva – he pulled out of 2016 Strictly Come Dancing amid rumours that he was being a bit of a brat – but here he is charismatic, witty and full of energy.

For those who remember the 1990s in detail, Richard Grieve was hunky Sam Kratz in Neighbours, but now he’s a camp silver fox who shines as larger-than-life Les Kendall, who is desperate for dancer Scott (Jonny Labey) to triumph in ballroom. The scene in which he partners Scott while insisting he toe the line is a real highlight – unexpected, amusing and excellently choreographed.

Dancing With Myself is also a memorable routine in which male dancers lift each other throughout, while strutting their stuff alongside Young’s mesmerising vocals.

In the lead roles, Zizi Strallen as Fran and Labey’s Scott capture the growing intensity of the unlikely couple. Strallen is fantastic at emulating the gait of someone who is awkward and ungainly. Her stiff, stilted moves and hunched shoulders when she’s first introduced completely hide what she’s capable of and contrast sharply with their bold routine to Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps in which they dance together sensually without touching.

It’s not a perfect show and at times the team of talented dancers appear to be too squashed on the stage, but the dazzling quality of the production is undeniable. It seems as if this ballroom blitz is destined to be a West End crowd-pleaser.



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