Review: Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom – Piccadilly Theatre until 20th October


Review By Caroline Hanks-Farmer

Lavish costumes, high energy, camp and more fake tan than you can possibly imagine but is Strictly Ballroom a musical without substance?


Meet Scott Hastings. Ballroom Dancer. Future champion. Rebel.

When Scott’s radical dance moves raise eyebrows with the Australian Federation, he finds himself dancing with Fran, a beginner who has no moves at all. Inspiring each other, the couple find the courage to defy both convention and their families – and discover that to be a winner, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom…

Adapted from Baz Luhrmann’s beloved and award-winning film, Strictly Ballroom has been transformed into a stage musical.

Photo Credit Johan Persson


Full of high energy and dazzling costumes there is no denying that there has been a huge amount of attention to detail in this production. However there are elements of this show I really struggled with and can absolutely see why it may not be to everyone’s taste. It, in my opinion, requires some further refinement, at times appearing chaotic and almost shambolic, with the stage just not big enough to accommodate the cast and scenery. Some of the Australian accents also seemed to travel. I’ve swayed massively on my star rating. That said we at are all about positively and at the end of the day, I left with my heart full of joy and a massive smile on my face, feeling thoroughly entertained and this is the reason why I fell on the generous side of my proposed rating.

Photo Credit Johan Persson

The lead Jonny Labey as Scott does not put a foot wrong, rarely leaving the stage, the sense of power and dynamite ability there for all to see. Equally matched as always by the incomparable Zizi Strallen as “beginner dancer” Fran. The parallels with Dirty Dancing were at times brought to the forefront of my mind and indeed why shouldn’t they be. Full of nostalgia and a slew of hit numbers sung by Will Young. Talking of Mr Young whose role seemed to be superfluous to proceedings at times and even awkward. Whilst I have no issue with the delivery, I’m not sure if his movement added value. As I’ve previously stated, this is a large production, with little room, and at times collision was inevitable.

Photo Credit Johan Persson

Comedy performances were in huge supply here, none more so than the ” President Trump” looking Barry Fife played by Gerard Horan. Whilst some of the sexist commentary would make you cringe it was the delivery that reminded you that this was of the era. Other laughs were provided by Anna Francolini, Richard Grieve, Gabriela Garcia and Ivan De Freitas. Charlotte Gooch did indeed sparkle as Tina Sparkle and danced beautifully with Gary Watson.

Returning to the story this show of course is called Strictly Ballroom and the choreography as expected by Drew McOnie is simply sublime. The outstanding cast deliver it with grace and talent and superbly showcase what this production is all about.

In Summary

Lovers of the film should adore this show, with its full-on dance competition circuit glamour. It has all the sparkle and dazzling choreography you’d wish to see and the cast are superb. For me there were fundamental flaws but that did not deter me from immensely enjoying it. If anything I’d say they need a bigger space to really do it justice. Its brash, bold and bonkers but oh such enjoyable fun!



Created by Baz Luhrmann

Book by Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce

Directed & Choreographed by Drew McOnie

Set Design by Soutra Gilmour

Costume Design by Catherine Martin

Lighting Design by Howard Hudson

Sound Design by Gareth Owen

Musical Supervision by David Caddick

Orchestrations by Simon Hale


Piccadilly Theatre

16 Denman Street




First performance: Thursday 29th March 2018



Monday – Saturday: 7.30pm

Matinees: Wednesday & Saturday, 2.30pm


Prices from £15


0844 871 7630


Facebook: StrictlyBallroomTheMusical

Twitter: @strictlystage

Instagram: StrictlyBallroomTheMusical