Strictly Ballroom New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: Strictly Ballroom, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: Strictly Ballroom, New Wimbledon Theatre

A show not to miss. By Jenny Booth.


I’m dusting down my ’10’ paddle for the irreverent, uplifting and wildly funny musical Strictly Ballroom which is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre this week. This new production is based more closely on the cult Baz Luhrmann film than the West End version of several years ago, and has managed to capture the film’s quicksilver wit, its galloping pace and its wacky imagination. Packed with new music from the likes of Sia and with showstopping dance routines, it brought a smile to my face that lasted throughout the performance.

Some of the biggest names of the Strictly Come Dancing TV franchise are behind this pacy and professional production: Craig Revel Horwood directs, with choreography from the peerless Jason Gilkinson who has been Strictly’s creative director for a decade, and multiple series-winner Kevin Clifton in the starring role as Scott Hastings, a ballroom dancer who wants to break free from restrictive convention. Strictly finalist Maisie Smith (previously Tiffany Butcher from EastEnders) is super as Fran, the shy girl who finds her confidence as Scott’s dance partner, delivering an inspirational love story that counterpoints the comedy.

And what comedy. Although every single member of the cast provides a fantastic comic cameo (and appears to be having a ball in the process), I have to single out Gary Davis as Barry Fife, the egotistic dance federation president who wants to ruin Scott’s career. It is a monstrously entertaining caricature which provides some fantastic absurd moments, with the extra bonus of Davis’s fine singing voice. At one point Mark Sangster (as Scott’s henpecked dad) and Quinn Patrick (as Les, Scott’s mum’s dance partner) join him in a Three Amigos-style trio that brings the house down. Nikki Belsher is wonderfully brittle and chirpy as Scott’s mum Shirley. By contrast, the paso doble sequence at the end of Act 1, led by top flamenco dancer Jose Agudo as Fran’s dad and Karen Mann as Abuela, is exciting and intense. With Mark Walters’ versatile set that manages to capture the long vistas and homespun feeling of smalltown Australia as well as the glitter and excitement of the ballroom, and a top-notch band led by Dustin Conrad, this is a show not to miss.

New Wimbledon Theatre, until 12 November

Image by Ellie Kurttz