Words: Jess Baum
Strictly Ballroom the Musical is the musical adaptation of Baz Luhrmann 90’s hit film of the same name. Having thoroughly enjoyed his cinematic productions Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby I wasn’t sure of what to expect from a Luhrmann stage production. Within the first 5 minutes it became clear that Luhrmann and his wife, designer Catherine Martin, did not let up on their obsessive attention to glamorous detail. The set design was bright and bold, even the closing curtains were sparkling. Cast members sported big hair and flawlessly sewn costumes. For the girls, imagine meringues dipped in glitter with frills and feathered shoulder pads that only Sesame Street’s Big Bird should be able to pull off. For the boys, well, think flares, full body shimmer and a plunging neckline. In fact, it’s safe to say the only place with more glitter and glam is Liza Minnelli’s lingerie draw.
The musical follows lead Thomas Lacey as Scott Hastings: a skilled dancer who is worthy of being the next ballroom champion. However, when he starts to defy the strict conventions of ballroom dancing it becomes a beautiful story about following your dreams. Sounds corny right? Well yeah it kind of is, but it is also full of laughs and lots of energy as the cast playfully incorporate the audience into the story. Without giving too much away, the music was a mix of original material and older classics in line with the film soundtrack. That’s right, Cyndi Lauper’s 1980’s hit Time after Time and John Paul Young’s Love Is In The Air circa 1978 were huge features in the musical. Whether you choose to mock or appreciate them is completely up to you.
The first act saw Lacey mesmerise spectators with a jaw-dropping dance and vocal solo. His performance through out the rest of the musical was full of energy and excitement, as a result he was clear crowd favourite. In my opinion though, Heather Mitchell and Drew Forsythe’s portrayal of Shirley and Doug Hastings stole the show with their impeccable comic timing. Doug in particular didn’t have to do much to get the audience going. This being said, Lacey’s love interest Phoebe Panaretos’s performance as Fran was an absolute stand out. She was funny, loveable and entertaining to watch.
Overall, I personally hadn’t been in the presence of so much hairspray since my Year 10 formal. But it is definitely a fun night out that leaves you wishing you could sing and dance the Paso Doble. If there were any negatives, it would be that Leonardo Dicaprio doesn’t make a cameo appearance doing the Cha Cha. For me, it gets 3 and a half stars out of 5! You can catch Strictly Ballroom the Musical for a limited time at Her Majesty’s Theatre.