Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, from the 1992 Baz Luhrmann film
Produced by Phil McIntyre Live
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
October 24-29, 2022; 2 hr 15 min
(Also Blackpool Winter Gardens, November 21-26; Sheffield City Hall, December 8-13, and Hull, Bradford, York, Salford and Leeds in the first half of 2023)
As stage musicals go, this one has an unusual pedigree.
It is based on a live performer, now the show's co-choreographer Jason Gilkison, and began on stage in Sydney before becoming Baz Luhrmann's first big movie. The film won a Golden Globe and three BAFTAs before the musical adaptation arose - and also inspired TV show Strictly Come Dancing, which you might have heard of (and which might be some small comfort to those who arrive at this show expecting a live version of the TV phenomenon).
So, good credentials, an interesting story with a point to make, great dance and music and an earthy humour that isn't afraid to make fun of itself. The musical has a lot to live up to.
Happily, it doesn't disappoint. The show is an engaging, absorbing experience that can take your breath away with its dance routines (courtesy of director and choeographer Craig Revel Harwood and the aforementioned Jason Gilkison).
While the play lacks the scope of the big-screen drama, it is compensated by the immediacy of live music and dramatic dance, and an earthy humour that isn't afraid to use an occasional expletive. Overall it attempts to capture the real-life frustrations and insecurity of top-level ballroom dancing, where behind fixed smiles, sequins, hairspray and toupees are highly- competitive, driven people with a lot at stake.
The show has surprising depth: two leads Scott and Fran (Strictly's Kevin Clifton and Eastenders' Maisie Smith, former Strictly partners) have their issues. We see Fran blossom from insignificant plain-Jane into a captivating dancer who breaks the rules of a family steeped in the Flamenco tradition. Scott fights against the weight of expectation, tradition and rules to assert his individuality. Despite attempts to make them conform or be excluded from competition, the talent of the pair wins the day.
While the two leads are excellent, the most stunning dance routine is the paso doble at the end of the first act. Rico (Jose Agudo) generates passion and intensity as he teaches young Scott a thing or two about dance and illustrates one of the central themes of the play; the power and importance of rhythm.
While the show's ending doesnt match the film's sense of drama, there is a fitting finale that earns a standing ovation, with well-deserved applause even for the six piece band.
The show is a great night's entertainment - you probably wouldn't mind watching this one even if you arrived thinking you were coming to a live version of a certain TV show.
Tickets and Information here