Award-winning writer Baz Luhrmann, known for creating the films Moulin Rouge!, Romeo & Juliet and The Great Gatsby, presents Strictly Ballroom, a brand new musical inspired by his classic 1992 film.
Strictly Ballroom tells the story of Scott, a competitive ballroom dancer in '80s Australia who makes up his own moves and finds himself aggravating ballroom-purists. He follows his heart to, not only find his true calling in dance, but also find his true love.
Following in the footsteps of Will Young (Cabaret), Matt Cardle stars in Strictly Ballroom as bandmaster Wally Strand.
The 1992 film was based on a stage play Luhrmann write whilst he was studying in Sydney, and it starred Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice and Bill Hunter. It was the first in Luhrmann’s ‘The Red Curtain Trilogy’, which is also made up of Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge!
The stage musical adaptation got its world premiere in Australia in 2014. It ran at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. It includes the hit songs from the film “Love Is In The Air”, “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” and “Time After Time”.
The production got its UK premiere in Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in December 2016. Directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie (Jesus Christ Superstar), the production starred Gemma Sutton, Sam Lips, Tamsin Carroll and Stephen Matthews.
Strictly Ballroom opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2018 starring Will Young, Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen. The production received numerous updates from the original Leeds run, including the addition of Young's bandmaster character Wally Strand (currently played by Cardle).
Strictly Ballroom the Musical Tickets are on sale now.
Strictly Ballroom Synopsis
Strictly Ballroom tells the story of Scott, a championship ballroom dancer in 1980s Australia who defies the rules and finds himself aggravating ballroom-purists. He goes one step further than just making up dance steps in choosing left-footed partner Fran as his partner for the Pan Pacific competition. In following his heart he finds his true calling in dance and his true love.
Strictly Ballroom, Piccadilly Theatre, London, review: This gleefully garish musical of Baz Luhrmann's film is loads of fun
This overblown dance-led show sweeps you up with its sequins and silliness
By :Holly Williams ***
Baz Luhrmann seems to have done the Baz Luhrmann treatment on his own material: that is, take a love story, twist in mildly incongruous pop songs, and shower it with sequins.
Admittedly, his 1992 film Strictly Ballroom was hardly lacking in the latter to be begin with – but this stage version is even more spangly and silly in every way.
The entire confection is as garish as the bubblegum-hued ostrich-trimmed ballgowns the cast swirl about in. The world of competitive ‘dance sport’ is rendered gleefully and grotesquely ghastly; grins plastered in place even as the plastic competitors swear viciously mid-competition. The Australian accents are as fake as the tans.
But if you get on board with its outrageous camp and gurning humour, the tale of the maverick ballroom dancer who just wants to do his own steps – and the shy young Spanish dancer he takes on as his rookie partner – is also loads of fun.
A moustachioed Will Young trots about in a flared, sequined jumpsuit singing all the numbers as our MC. Actually, he could be made more of, for while his role intentionally ups the theatricality of the evening (much welcome in a faithful film-to-stage musical), in terms of narrative it is hardly necessary. This story isn’t exactly surprising, or subtle, after all.
Under Drew McOnie’s direction, the first half is drum-tight, however. The physical performances might seem buffoonishly large, but they’re precision tooled as lines and laughs hit their targets. And there’s some genuine slow-burn chemistry between Zizi Strallen’s dorky, adorable Fran and Jonny Labey’s driven, deadpan Scott.
The second half feels less focused – largely due to some lame attempts at political resonance that feel simultaneously strenuous and lazy. A dancing association president banging on about the rules becomes a Trump-like figure, and there’s a nonsense dream-sequence of political protest against him. The show is fully aware that equating the struggle to rumba with the fight against right-wing populism is absurd, but too much time is given to this nudge-nudge to topical resonance without it being either earned or interrogated.
And while most of the eclectic song selections are cute (you can probably guess which Bowie, Billy Idol, and Whitney Houston tracks with the word ‘dance’ in the title are parped out by a scorching live band), is there not an element of bad taste in invoking “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Fight the Power” in two white Australians’ struggle against the oppression of, er, regulation ballroom dancing moves?
Still, it’s not a show too take too seriously, and there is much to enjoy. McOnie’s choreography is totally glorious, whether sending up the silliness of cheesy routines or firing up flamenco. And this is a dance-driven show: Young leads us through the story with songs, but the main characters aren’t lumbered with jukeboxing emotion – they signal feeling with their hips, not their lips.
Soutra Gilmour’s fun set recalls Follies, if it were set in a Reflex Eighties bar. Here too are dancing girls in luscious costumes watching wistfully from fire escape staircases, in front of crumbling facades and exposed brickwork; just swap that Follies sign for a Coca Cola advert and add a helluva load of neon strip lighting. As with everything else in this musical, it is bright and garish. But it lit me up.
The Piccadilly Theatre opened on 27th April 1928. The theatre was designed by Bertie Crewe and Edward A. Stone, both very well versed in the architecture of theatres, for Edward Laurillard who was a well-respected theatre producer. The famous French artists Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet were hired to design the interior of the theatre, adorning it in rich shades of pink. The bars and foyer were decorated in grandiose Art Deco golds and greens, a large contrast to the simple façade of the building.
After the opening production (Blue Eyes, a musical by Jerome Kern) the theatre was turned into a cinema by Warner Brothers and was the house of the very first talking picture to be show in England – Al Jolson in The Singing Fool. Fortunately, in November 1929, the theatre was returned to its original state and began showing live productions again, including the successful Folly to be Wise in January 1931.
Suffering considerable damage during World War II, the venue had to be partially rebuilt and reopened again in April 1945 with a production of Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death. The theatre then didn’t find particularly good luck with the productions it played host to, seeing a number of flops in the following years including the 1960 production of Bachelor Flat which lasted for four performances! Fortunately the theatre’s luck turned around during the 1960s and 1970s with transfers of productions from Broadway, including Man of La Mancha in 1968 and A Streetcar Named Desire in 1974.
The Piccadilly Theatre is also known for the ITV variety show Live From the Piccadilly which began in 1986, playing on Sunday evenings and hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck. Jimmy Tarbuck is not the only notable performer to have graced the stage here, with Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Barbara Dickson, Lynn Redgrave, Julia McKenzie and Dame Edna all appearing in productions over the years.
The theatre is currently owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group.
The auditorium has three levels - Stalls, Royal Circle and Grand Circle.
The Stalls offers very good views of the stage, with a noticable rake in the seating. The overhang of the Royal Circle affects the view from Row R onwards.
The overhang of the Royal Circle affects the view from Row F onwards, but the seating at this level is very well raked which allows for excellent views.
The Grand Circle is well raked, allowing good views of the stage, but the legroom is rather slim at this level.
Facilities At Piccadilly Theatre
Seat plan: Piccadilly Theatre Seat Plan Facilities: Air conditioned Bar Infrared hearing loop Toilets Wheelchair accessible
Access description: 1 shallow step up from the pavement through the central and right-hand doors into the foyer (no step at the left-hand doorway). Box Office counter on the left. No steps to Royal Circle from Sherwood Street entrance (see Wheelchair Access), or up 6 steps from the foyer. Stalls are down 15 steps, Royal Circle up 28 steps (2 steps between rows), Grand Circle up 70. Staircases have handrails on both sides.
Sound Amplification: Induction loop at Box Office and infra-red system in the auditorium.
Guide Dogs: Guide dogs are not permitted inside the auditorium. Staff are happy to look after 2 guide dogs per performance.
Disabled Access: Via side entrance in Sherwood Street into a box (entrance is 65cm wide) which has space for 2 wheelchair users and their companions. 2 more wheelchairs can be accommodated in row A of the Royal Circle. The view of the left-hand side of the stage is slightly restricted. Stage left is slightly restricted. Access to transfer seating at A25-28 in the Royal Circle is through the same EXIT door in the Sherwood Street yard up one 8cm step. Scooters users allowed in the venue, but must move to transfer seats. 4 wheelchairs or 2 scooters can be stored next to the Royal Box. If you need help with transferring you should bring a companion.
Toilets: Women’s 8 steps down from the Stalls and a men’s off the Stalls bar; another women’s 15 steps down from Royal Circle and 7 up, and a men’s 8 steps up from the Royal Circle bar. Further toilets at Grand Circle level.
Disabled Toilets: Adapted toilet available
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus Tube lines: Bakerloo, Piccadilly Location: West End Railway station: Charing Cross Bus numbers: (Shaftesbury Avenue) 14, 19, 38; (Regent Street) 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 23, 88, 94, 139, 159, 453 Night bus numbers: (Shaftesbury Avenue) 14, N19, N38; (Regent Street) 6, 12, 23, 88, 94, 139, 159, 453, N3, N13, N15, N18, N109, N136 Car park: Brewer Street (3mins) Within congestion zone?: Yes Directions from tube: (2mins) Pass the famous illuminated signs on your right to take Glasshouse Street/Sherwood Street where the theatre can be seen.