The theatre industry slows down over summer but there are some great shows coming to Manchester, including Strictly Ballroom.
Strictly Ballroom is the stage musical adaptation of the film of the same name, which was directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann in his feature directorial debut. The film is the first in his Red Curtain Trilogy of theatre-motif-related films; it was followed by Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!. The latter has also been adapted to the stage; it was my first show of the year and is, quite possibly, my favourite musical (and I’ve seen, like, everything).
Whilst the film came before the stage musical, the film is, in fact, based on a critically acclaimed stage play, originally set up in 1984 by Luhrmann and fellow students during his studies at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney. An expanded version of the play became a success at the Czechoslovakian Youth Drama Festival in Bratislava in 1986.
In 1988, it had a successful season at Sydney’s Wharf Theatre, where it was seen by Australian music executive Ted Albert and his wife, Antoinette. They both loved it, and, when Albert, soon after, set up the film production company M&A Productions with Australian producer Tristram Miall, they offered Luhrmann their plan to transform his play into a film. He agreed on the condition that he would also get to direct it – and the rest is history!
The stage musical adaptation began its life as a jukebox musical with some new songs. It premiered in Sydney, Australia, the birthplace of Luhrmann. Parts of the musical were reworked, including a new opening number, for the Melbourne season in 2015. The Melbourne season was better received, and the musical subsequently visited Brisbane that same year.
With a further revised book, the removal of all new songs, and the introduction of many more popular songs, a new production opened in Leeds, UK in 2016.
The following year, the musical had its North American premiere in Toronto, Canada. This version transferred to the West End in 2018 – and I regretted not seeing it because it looked fabulous. So, I was thrilled when it was announced that the the musical, albeit a new production, would embark on a UK tour in 2020, directed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood. But this thing called COVID-19 led the tour to be postponed to 2021 and then 2022…
At long last, the musical is heading to Manchester!
Bringing together a cast of over 20 world class performers, Strictly Ballroom follows arrogant, rebellious young ballroom dancer, Scott Hastings. When his radical and daring dance style see him fall out of favour with Australian Federation, he must dance with beginner, Fran. Together, they find the courage to defy tradition and discover that to win, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom!
Featuring break-into-song numbers such as ‘Love is in the Air’, ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps’, and ‘Time After Time’, as well as several wonderful new songs by internationally acclaimed artists including Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect. This spectacle is sure to make for an unforgettable evening under the glitter ball that will send your heart soaring and toes tapping.
The musical stars Strictly star Kevin Clifton in the lead role. Last year, The Mancunion reviewed his dance show, Burn the Floor, and I reviewed Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, which he starred in.
He previously played Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages so he should excel as the similarly arrogant Scott Hastings.
Whilst the female lead was previously played by EastEnders star and Strictly finalist Maisie Smith, the latter part of the tour is led by Corrie star and Dancing on Ice runner-up Faye Brookes.
Brookes is no stranger to the musical theatre stage, having starred in Grease, the first UK tours of Shrek and Legally Blonde, The Sound of Music, and Chicago, the latter of which I reviewed last year; she was excellent as the conniving, fame-hungry Roxie Hart.
The cast also includes fellow television competition stars Danielle Cato (So You Think You Can Dance) and Stuart Rouse (Britain’s Got Talent semifinalist).
So, put on your dancing feet and head down to The Lowry for a for a night of nostalgia!