‘Strictly Ballroom the Musical’ review

Theatre, Musicals
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(26user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
1/6
© Johan Persson Zizi Strallen as Fran and Jonny Labey as Scott Hastings
 (© Johan Persson)
2/6
© Johan Persson Charlotte Gooch as Tina Sparkle and Gary Watson as Ken Railings
 (© Johan Persson)
3/6
© Johan Persson Jonny Labey, Lauren Stroud, Will Young, Michelle Bishop and Gary Watson
 (© Johan Persson)
4/6
© Johan Persson
 (© Johan Persson)
5/6
© Johan Persson
 (© Johan Persson)
6/6
© Johan Persson Zizi Strallen as Fran and Jonny Labey as Scott Hastings

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A joyously eccentric musical take on Baz Luhrmann's fabulous dancing yarn

There’s so much that’s weird about ‘Strictly Ballroom - The Musical’ that it’s hard to know where to start. First up, it’s not really a musical at all. There’s barely a new song in sight – instead, the score is an ingenious piecemeal of hits, from Whitney Houston to REM to Robyn. And it’s sung almost entirely by Will Young, dressed up as a sort of haunted retro compere (think Che in ‘Evita’) with a handlebar moustache, spandex and, at one point, rollerskates. Perhaps the rest of the cast can sing too, but they’ve got bigger fish to fry: acclaimed choreographer Drew McOnie’s production puts all the focus on tirelessly energetic, amped-up ballroom routines and shamelessly exaggerated physical comedy.

Baz Luhrmann’s original 1992 movie is already pretty arch, mixing high-haired satire of the cut-throat world of amateur ballroom dancing with a kind of ‘Dirty Dancing’-style sweaty romance between snake-hipped champion Scott and nerdy beginner Fran. Most of this heterosexual sensuality has been expunged from this version (adapted from one by Lurhmann), but its exploration of thwarted ambition and creative gatekeeping lives on.

Established musical theatre star Zizi Strallen makes her mark with a lovable vein of physical comedy, trembling with suppressed passion and morphing from stiff puppet to expert dancer. But Jonny Labey is less convincing as her maverick idol-turned-squeeze Scott, and the pair’s romance suffers from the fact that they never actually sing together, in a slightly baffling waste of Strallen’s talents.

It’s a decision that’s part of director Drew McOnie’s laser-focus on the dance. And the ballroom scenes are appropriatelly spectacular. The stage is flooded with couples wearing costume designer Catherine Martin’s masterful get-ups: each tinted a different rainbow hue, shimmering with sequins and gently vibrating ostrich feathers. The dancers smiles’ are as fixed and cartoonishly wide as a troupe of leaping dolphins. And their physical skills tip over into the narrative scenes. Adapted by Craig Pearce, the text cleaves pretty tightly to Luhrmann’s original, but the comic performances are dialled up to 11: Scott’s spurned former dance partner Liz (a memorably funny Lauren Stroud) expresses her grief at the volume and pitch of an air-raid siren.

Will Young’s voice can do it all – ethereal Whitney Houston covers, matinee-idol macho – but even so, the show relies heavily on his singing to add depth to the whippet-fast, chihauhua-light plot. The night I saw it, he marked the curtain call by sinking to the floor in a puddle of camped-up exhaustion. Still, if ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is indeed a bit tiring, it’s got enough talent and relentless invention to make it exhilarating, too. It’s halfway between a tribute to and a very, very silly send-up of a much-loved movie, whose cava-swilling fans will leave the theatre with a skip, slide and hop in their step.

By: Alice Saville

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Users say (26)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:11
  • 4 star:11
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|26
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Tastemaker

What a surprise! Strictly Ballroom was a fun and lighthearted evening that had enough bite to stop it from being too fluffy.

The performances are excellent, the dancing sublime, the songs instantly recognisable.

This is one of my unexpected favourites of the year - catch it before it closes if you can!

tastemaker

The choice to have Matt Cardle sing all the songs in this show is an interesting one, especially as I assume the other actors are all triple threat performers, especially Zizi Strallen who has a impressive set of pipes, didn't get to use their singing talents. The choreography is joyous and the performers spin and fly across the dance floor with panache. I found the story a little bit predictable, but with a show like this you aren't really going for a great storyline, you want to be entertained, and that you will be!

tastemaker

What a show! Matt Cardle sings much loved covers,at times front of stage and at others, as a pensive background. The ballroom dancers all conform to type except Scott who wants to perform his own steps. Will he dare to be different or will he become part of the Stepford Wives troupe? There is comedy. There are twirls and tantrums. There is pathos and passion. The costumes (Catherine Martin), both male and female, are a sight to behold and the ballroom scenes bring a riot of colour to the stage. I was very pleasantly surprised. But hurry as you only have a week left!

Tastemaker

This show is entertaining and fun. I felt the stage was too small for the dancers and the group scenes felt cramped. I loved the story and the soundtrack is brilliant by why is there only a couple of bars of each song. Matt Cardle has a great voice and I wanted to hear him sing for more than a verse at a time.

The costumes are good, the dancing is good, the acting is good, the songs are good, the singing is good. I guess I was just hoping for brilliant!

tastemaker

I have been such a fan of the movie for years, so I was nervous the show would not live up to the movie. 

I'm please to say I was wrong. It was fabulous! 

Whilst staying true to the film, it was cleverly adapted to work on  stage. The dance numbers were mesmerising and the costumes were so eye catching, just like the movie. 

I thought the two leads were fantastic, and a perfect match to my much loved characters with Fran being my favourite as well as her Dad. His solo dance routine was the show stealer. 

It only got knocked down one star as Will Young didn't perform on the night- however, his stand in was great and filled the sequin trousers spectacularly 


One word sums up this show - FABULOUS! What an amazing time my friends and I had watching this for my birthday. It’s a feast for the eyes - colour, glitz and glamour plus a really funny script that had me laughing out loud! There was such a brilliant chemistry between all the actors, especially the leads which really brought the story to life for me and had me crying happy tears on more than one occasion. Go and see this show if you can, it really is one of the best shows in London!


Never seen or even heard of the film, however after some convincing I agreed to see this musical and I must say that I’VE LOVED IT. I would watch it again, again and again. It’s electrifying, funny and emotional, a true rollercoaster of emotions, always with rhythm and great soundtrack.

For me one of the best musicals in London and a must see for the summer.


Love the original Baz Luhrmann film & this show more than does it justice! A bright, camp dollop of Australian sunshine on the West End stage! Sadly Will Young didn’t perform at the show I saw. It was his understudy who was still outstanding. The songs will really suit Will’s voice & I must try to go again since I’d love to see him in this. It’s frustrating when shows are advertised with celebrity performers since even though the shows was fantastic you are disappointed not to see the billed big name. All the leads are great- particularly the actress playing Fran. The songs are performed beautifully & the dancing is fantastic. This is funny, fresh & feel good.

tastemaker

I genuinely enjoyed this show. It’s feel good fun at its best. If you’re a Will Young fan then you don’t want to miss this as Will pretty much sings throughout the show as well as narrating the goings on.

If you’re a fan of dance then obviously this is also for you. It’s chuckle worthy, glitzy and just generally good fun. Go see it and smile!

Tastemaker

so glitzy, glamorous, and fun! I've never seen so many feathers in one dance number but it definitely worked! The well known songs mostly performed by Will Young helped carry the show, whilst the chemistry between the two leads pulled at my heart strings. A great night out, that leaves you google dance classes on your way out. 

tastemaker

Absolutely loved this performance, from the opening scene we were fixated. Will Young does an amazing job throughout - great singing that you can't help but sing along to. Everything about this performance was entertaining, from the sparkles, dancing, colourful costumes and humour. It is a real feel good show. I would highly recommend it and would even go back to see it again - - its a lot of fun! 


I was lucky enough to get tickets to a preview of this show and I absolutely loved it!!

It pays close tribute to the beloved film but with some added extras. Will young is brilliant as Wally. His voice is beautiful! I loved every minute. It was filled with laughs, dancing, love and lots of sparkle. I highly recommend you go see it. You wont be disappointed.


tastemaker

Wow wow wow WOW .. WHAT A SHOW. I had the absolute pleasure of watching this the other day and my oh my it was worth every second of it.

It was funny,fun,colourful and very well choreographed. The costumes were lovely and the women in them were fantastic dancers!!

It was such a wonderful show. With will Young belting out some classics it added a nice touch.

A story of ambition,dreams and unexpected love...with combinations like these theres no going wrong. A really fantastic show indeed.

tastemaker

From the opening scene it was fabulously funny and entertaining, from blindingly bright fake tan to the excessive amount of costume glitter, the stage production was the perfect balance of comendy and romance. A fun night out for all ages and a homage to 90s Australian ballroom dancing competitions in community halls. 

Tastemaker

Strictly Ballroom embodies Ronseal's tagline; it does exactly what it says on the tin. It's 2 hours of dance, song and family friendly humour. You're guided through the whole show by Will Young and his dulcet tones (along with on stage band) underscoring most scenes. He is a capable narrator and performs admirably throughout although the nods to Panto highlight the shows nature. The cast is solid, the direction on point and, as a whole, the production moves from number to number with aplomb. So far, so West End Musical.


It isn't all sunshine though as the plot is overloaded with cliche's, more than I ever though possible to fit in one show, and lacks any real originality. About half the cast seem to be able to maintain a decent Aussie accent which just emphasises the actors that struggle and I'd say its running about 20 minutes too long. Whilst I'm no Fred Astaire, I was slightly disappointed with the quality of the dancing. It felt very safe and tried but, having said that, still very competent. 


This is a fun, easy going show that will delight it's target demographic. 

Tastemaker

Little known fact: Strictly Ballroom was a stage production before it was a film, and Baz Luhrman, too, was a stage play director before he went into movies. On its first run, Strictly Ballroom was deemed SO good on stage, the powers that be allowed Bazza to try making it into a film and it was the start of a glistening career for him in Hollywood. 


As with most Baz Luhrman enterprises, Strictly Ballroom has become a bit of a cult classic. I adored it as a child and I was excited but nervous to see it on the West End. I wasn't disappointed. It was absolutely outstanding - probably the best thing I've seen on stage in years, to be honest. Just good, genuine fun which has you smiling from start to finish (minus the scenes with the sweet, understated Dad, Doug, which had me in tears, obviously).


Will Young sounded absolutely outstanding and I loved the emphasis on acting and dance rather than having the whole cast partake.It meant they were all fantastic dancers and the acting was characterful and funny. Zizi Strallen shone in the lead female role, and the male lead was excellent too. I echo others that the accents were a bit off at times but I don't think it made any impact, it's such a slapstick production that it doesn't matter if they're not quite right. 


In short, it's colourful, it's brash and it's simply wonderful. I left on cloud nine and I would run back to see this again. 

tastemaker

This musical is a bit wacky, funny and full of classic tunes. Will Young intermittently interacted with the audience and blended with the actors on the stage well. I love him singing and story telling throughout.


As someone who enjoys (watching) ballroom dancing, I found the choreography just ok, However, I really like Zizi Strallen's portrayal of a geeky girl transforming in to a beautiful dancer. The scene that I very much enjoyed was the end of Act 1: the Pasadoble steps. It was full of energy and passion. 


I have not watched the Australian film version so I could not comment if the film was better, but I found that the Australian accent was not maintained throughout the musical. The costumes were bold and colourful, and the set/props were simple but worked very well. The stage actually felt a little small to accommodate all of the casts and props at times. 


Overall, I like this musical, it is entertaining and has a happy story line.

tastemaker

When the show started, it was really over the top, like loud colors, big forced smiles and aggressive ballroom dancing. But as you peel back and dive into the story, it's absolutely lovely. The songs are great, the love story heartfelt, and the lady with the peacock dress and the dad's passionate tap dance totally stole the show.

tastemaker

Strictly Ballroom is a dazzling, sequined, joyous, life-affirming bundle of unadulterated pleasure and utter joy.  It is a perfect antidote to all of life’s ails, it should be available on the NHS to those feeling blue.

To say that I love this doesn’t even come close. It is one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen, EVER. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen, full stop.  Growing up, this one of my sister and I’s favourite movies, the Pasa Doble scene, in particular, etched into my brain.  There was every possibility it just wouldn’t live up but, Oh My God, it does and more.  Will Young must think he has died and gone to heaven, in a role that could have been written for him, as compere to the whole show, resplendent in sequins.  He has an amazing soundtrack, including Love Is In The Air and  Time after Time. 

I had forgotten quite how funny and tragic this story is. The set, the costumes, the accents, the music, the dancing are all stunning.  Fernando Mira’s Pasa Doble made my hairs stand on end. Utterly magical.

When we left the theatre, we were overwhelmed by emotion. People around us were dancing in the street, yes really, it really is that incredible.

Go and book your tickets now, this is quite simply a must see. I’ve already booked to go again. 

Tastemaker

If you like cheesiness, then this show is for you! It’s a great depiction of the film and Will Young was phenomenal, amazing voice and extremely talented.

The Australian accents were awful, and some cringe worthy but funny moments!

The music was fab, along with the dancing and costumes. Sequins galore! It took me back to reminisce about the 90s

If you want a fun night out with your girlfriends, go check it out!

tastemaker

I am a huge fan of the film so I had concerns that the stage show wouldn't live up to it and would be disappointing - I am happy to say I was wrong!  The show is everything the film was and is a really clever adaptation - it is true to the film and doesn't deviate too much.  The one change I didn't particular like was the absence of Scott's little sister, who I think has some great moments in the film.  The cast is fab and Will Young gives a standout performance.  The rest of the cast are very good too - bar the odd slip up in maintaining an Aussie accent.  This show won't be for everyone due to it cheesiness and campness, but any fans of the will should love it!


I'm a big fan of Baz Luhrmann's work but have never heard of Strictly Ballroom - so I went in knowing nothing.


If you're expecting a classical West End musical, look again. Here, the singing is, for the most part, done by only one person (Will Young), your MC/narrator/host for the night. This gives the show sort of a cabaret-feel, not necessarily to its disadvantage. The audience is involved throughout the evening. You get to dance, sing along and enjoy a light-hearted, West Side Story meets Moulin Rouge-type production.


Short dialogues, LOTS of sequins, plenty of beautiful costumes and sets leave you dazzled - Strictly Ballroom is a fab night out for nothing too serious. The story is quite predictable and some lines are just a bit too cheesy for me, but all in all it's still hours of fun. 

tastemaker

A true camp 90's classic bought to the stage in the best way possible. This has to be one of the funnest nights at the theatre for a long long time and I was smiling all the way through. 


I was worried they may ruin the original film - but this musical keeps the gritty, sparkly and outrageous story and characters. 


From the opening song Will Young takes you on a journey to the Kendall dance hall and the Australian  Pan Pacific Grand Prix. Seeing every dance, fight and sequin. 


The film was the lesser known start of the Baz Luhrmann trilogy - I still think it has more heart and better songs than the others.  But most people will disagree. 


But get down to the Piccadilly Theatre to have the campest night of your life and re-live a 90,s classic. 

tastemaker

I'm a massive fan of the film so wasn't sure how true to the original it would be. I really wasn't disappointed! 


Absolutely amazing choreography and fab outfits. Characters were played very well (albeit with a few dodgy australian accents haha). Loved the way Will Young sang the songs from the film but also the addition of some extra songs to help tell the story. 


Overall a great show that will end up with you dancing your way back to the station. 

tastemaker

As someone who hasn't seen the movie I went into this show completely green.


Filled with well-loved songs, excellently performed by Will Young and outstanding choreography by drew mcconie provide a hilarious musical filled with talent.


Guaranteed to leave you in a good mood would recommend.


Side Note : Australian accents are questionable.



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