"terrific songs and immense lashings of razzle-dazzle"
-Whatsonstage.com-

"talent and relentless invention"
-TimeOut-

"fab-u-lous, feel-good pleasure"
-Broadway World-

Sorry, Strictly Ballroom the Musical closed on 20 Oct 2018


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If you enjoy glitz, glam and Will Young, you will enjoy Strictly Ballroom

Critic Rating

1 May 2018, Piccadilly Theatre
Alice Bzowska Alice Bzowska
It’s been nearly 30 years since Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom dazzled us on the silver screen with hilarious overacting that, although tacky, somehow seemed to work. Now, the story of Scott Hastings and his controversial dance moves with the Australian Federation has been brought to life on stage at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, and it sparkles much like the original film. However, it is the sequins and highly-saturated neon costumes that dazzle more than anything else in this new production.

Will Young opens the show as narrator Wally Strand and stays on stage the whole time, with an embellished flamboyance and overenthusiasm in a manner that reminded me of Graham Norton. He struts camply around the stage between the scenes, captivating the audience with his gorgeous vocals. Unfortunately though, even Young singing beautifully-arranged classics such as It’s the End of the World and Love Is In The Air doesn’t do much to save us from a bit of a disappointing adaptation.

Strictly Ballroom transports the audience into the stern world and strict rules of ballroom dancing, and tells the tale of dancer Scott Hastings (Jonny Labey) who wants to break away from traditional dancing and create his own moves. After Scott’s dance partner Liz (Lauren Stroud) becomes sick of his tearaway nature, he finds an unlikely partner in dowdy, glasses-clad Fran (Zizi Strallen), who of course soon whips off the specs and frumpy jumpers to show her slender, sexy side, learning Scott’s moves in a matter of weeks.

With choreography by Drew McOnie, Strictly Ballroom is slick and spectacular to watch, but the jokes seem a bit arduous, and there isn’t much heart in it. There were high hopes for a more promising production towards the beginning during the heartfelt scene where Scott and Fran first dance, accompanied by Will Young singing Time After Time in a way that almost brought tears to my eyes, but this for me was the peak, and it didn’t quite reach the same heights after that.

I’ll admit I enjoy shows like Strictly Come Dancing on occasion, and so I was expecting to be just as entertained as I was when watching Andy Murray’s mother show off her moves as she did on the show a few years ago, but despite a good score (mostly consisting of classic hits), flashy costumes and fabulous dancing, Strictly Ballroom brings nothing new to the West End scene.

If you enjoy glitz, glam and Will Young, you will enjoy Strictly Ballroom. Just be prepared to be urged to get up and dance before the bows begin, giving a standing ovation at the end whether you like it or not.


Sarah Crompton
McOnie has surrounded the action with a chorus of dancers in black tie and brilliant tulle, who waft around, overlooking events like ghosts from a dream, stepping into the action when required. His choreography throughout is sensational and inventive; his direction fluent, keeping control of the frenzy.
TimeOut
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.
Marianka Swain
Young is a charming and efficient companion, whisking us through set changes (short scenes and location jumps a hangover from the movie) and, crucially, maintaining the show's tone: a mix of droll parody, spiced with Aussie lingo, and kindly emotion.
Fiona Mountford
There’s an enervating sense of a thin storyline eked out too far, especially since the Scott/Fran pairing never has us fully aflame. The best news, by far, is Strallen, who exudes a lightness and brightness even when a mere face in the dance studio crowd early on.
The Stage
It’s a world of appearance, rather than feeling. There lies the crux of the story, and the problem with this adaptation. It’s so keen to be a glossy West End show that it loses its heart.
Michael Billington
At the end, Young also urges us, in the tones of a holiday-camp redcoat, to: “Feel free to stand up and dance with us.” It not only manipulates a standing ovation, but also seems oddly bullying for a show that attacks the didacticism of a previous era.
Dominic Maxwell
Can this musical reimagining of the 1992 Australian romantic comedy keep dancing — or singing, or sashaying, or goofing around — in quite the same world-beating way? I can’t see it.
Mark Shenton
Now it's been overhauled - and it feels like the spirit has been crushed out of it more or less entirely, just as the organisers of an Australian ballroom dance championship try to drum the hero's pursuit of his own individuality out of him and replace it with conformity.