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Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Royal and Derngate Review

"Love is in the air" as Strictly Ballroom The Musical heads out on its first UK and Ireland tour.

Baz Luhrmann's 1992 film was first adapted into a stage show in 2014 in Australia and has enjoyed various runs including a West End run at the Piccadilly Theatre but this production is a new staging helmed by director Craig Revel Horwood who co-choreographs the show alongside Jason Gilkison. Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will recognise both names from the hit TV dance contest.

Maisie Smith in Strictly Ballroom. Photo by Ellie Kurttz

For those, like me, who aren't familiar with the film the story then you are presented with a paper-thin plot but it is delivered by a tremendous company that keeps you engaged throughout. The central character of Scott Hastings is a ballroom dancer who rebels by breaking out his own dance steps against tradition much to the disapproval of his peers. Upon breaking up with his current dance partner and being down on his luck Scott needs someone else and he meets shy young beginner Fran who has great talent hidden under the surface and they begin a blossoming partnership. I won't spoil the rest but you may be able to guess where it is heading.

With the dance credentials of Revel Horwood and Gilkinson at the helm, it's undoubted that the dance sequences are the musical's strongest sequences. The dancing is exquisite with moves skillfully staged on a set designed by Mark Walters who also provides dazzling costumes including some lavish ballgowns. The dancing is breathtaking with a variety of styles on show. 

Leading the cast on the press night in Northampton was the astonishing Edwin Ray as Scott. The role is normally played by Kevin Clifton but understudy Ray is more than a match for the part. Ray giving a fully-rounded triple-threat performance of acting, singing and dancing. His vocals are soaring and he makes the movement look effortless. It's no mean feat to take on the role when the audience is coming expecting to see the ex-Strictly star Clifton but any doubters are gone during the first scene.

Making her musical theatre debut is a sublime Maisie Smith as Fran. She develops in confidence much like the character as the show goes on. She shows great comedic talent and shows off the dance skills that made her a deserving Strictly finalist in 2020. Hidden under the surface is a phenomenal vocal range that could easily make her a top-selling artist. Smith and Ray have great chemistry together and create a believable central partnership.

The cast of Strictly Ballroom. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Jose Agudo steals every moment as Rico with beautiful Flamengo lines. Mark Sangster delights giving some great comedy moments as Doug Hastings whilst Gary Davis impresses as Barry Fife with strong stage presence and vocals. The ensemble shows world-class dancing but not without a couple of stumbles and falls. 

The show's soundtrack features well-known tracks including Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time' and 'Love Is In The Air' made famous by John Paul Young. These numbers are highlights where as some of the original songs don't quite hit those heights. The standout musical number comes late on in the second act as Scott and Fran duet a gorgeous track 'Beautiful Surprise'.

Strictly Ballroom will leave you uplifted as you exit the theatre after 2 and a half hours of sublime dance and enjoyable musical theatre. It's hardly life-changing stuff but it'll give you a bit of joy and what more could you ask for? Fab-u-lous fun.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ and a half.

Strictly Ballroom plays at Northampton's Royal and Derngate until Saturday 4th March 2023. Tickets are available from The tour continues thereafter with dates booking through until June 2023, visit for the full tour schedule.

Maisie Smith and the cast of Strictly Ballroom. Photo by Ellie Kurttz

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