Strictly Ballroom At The Hippodrome
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
Strictly Ballroom fans, fans of either the original movie, or the BBC show will no doubt love this show - the rest of us can marvel in the wonder of New Steps.
From the moment the curtain opens up the spotlights sparkle on the sequins, the dancers shimmy and the stage sways you know that this is a show that fans of either the original movie, or the BBC smash hit will love. Set in backwoods Australia and centred around the Pan Asia Ballroom dancing championships, this show clashes the stereotypes of Aussie machismo with the uber traditional federation ballroom dancing.
Having neither seen the original Baz Luhrmann movie, nor being a regular watcher of BBC’s Strictly I am sure there were many cultural references that I didn’t get but what I can recognise is brilliant casting, amazing talent and some stunning dance routines . The petty cat fighting and snobby approach the true ‘amateurs’ had towards beginners seemed too contrived to be real and yet, on asking those more in the know at the interval, I was assured that dance (at all levels) is a tempestuous and at times down right vicious arena. Back stabbing, double crossing and unbridled jealousy where evident right from the get go but it is the genuine love of dancing that drives the real story.
The story of a failed pushy mom who wants to relive her life through her child is not dissimilar to many other shows; that the son is a macho Aussie who wants to rebel and dance “new steps, his way” is a veiled approach to try and suggest that the age old image of the beer drinking, vest wearing sheep rearing outbacker is ready to be updated and Ballroom Dancing is the vehicle to do so. Kevin Clifton as Scott shows that not only is he a master of dance (and a huge range of styles), he can sing and act just as well. Playing opposite him as Fran is Maisie Smith, the Strictly finalist who surely is the hottest new thing n musical theatre - stunningly good dancer, wonderful actor and a pure voice that will no doubt rival many established stars.
The rest of the cast & ensemble wow under the spotlights; bright costumes in the ballroom scenes, subtle but passion tones for Fran's Spanish family provide an almost 'Romeo & Juliet' style contradiction both in backgrounds and values.
I will be honest and state that as a topic this show had limited appeal to me, however I can appreciate the craft on show and in particular the Flamenco dancing which closed act 1 was brilliant; full of passion and fire and raw emotion. As the 2nd act progressed I found myself enjoying it more and more, intrigued by the subplots and allowing the feathers and high waisted trousers to cease from being mere costumes and recognising them as the uniforms of dance.
The final number was happily brief; too often such shows seem to feel the need to reprise every song used into a finale but here the director recognises the need to allow the story to end. That said, as I looked to my left I found Mr Harrison, my usual stalwart companion reviewer, up on his feet, bopping along and smiling - a true winning performance if ever there was one.