Previewed 16 March 2018, Opened 24 April 2018, Closed 27 October 2018 at the Piccadilly Theatre
The new stage musical Strictly Ballroom in London - based on the Baz Luhrmann's 1992 multi-award-winning film
The inspiring story of Scott Hastings - a championship ballroom dancer who defies all the rules and follows his heart, not only to find his true calling but also his true love.
Featuring all the hit songs from the movie including Love Is In The Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time along with a number of new songs.
The original cast featured Jonny Labey as 'Scott Hastings', Zizi Strallen as 'Fran' and Will Young as 'Wally Strand' (Matt Cardle as 'Wally Strand' from 31 July 2018) up to with Gerard Horan as 'Barry Fife', Anna Francolini as 'Shirley Hastings' and Fernando Mira as 'Rico' along with Michelle Bishop, Ivan De Freitas, Gabriela Garcia, Charlotte Gooch, Richard Grieve, Liam Marcellino, Stephen Mattthews, Eve Polycarpou, Lauren Stroud, Gary Watson, Chrissy Brooke, Selina Hamilton, Luke Jackson, Justin-Lee Jones, Jacob Maynard, Freya Rowley, Tinovimbanashe Sibanda, Dale White, Chris Bennett, Hannah Fairclough, Lavinia Fitzpatrick, Tim Hodges, Christopher D Hunt, Robin Kent, and Leanne Pinder. Directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie with sets by Soutra Gilmour, costumes by Catherine Martin, lighting by Howard Hudson and sound by Gareth Owen. Created by Baz Luhrmann with book by Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann. Original screenplay by Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce and Andrew Bovell.
Baz Luhrmann's musical Strictly Ballroom originated in 1984 as a stage play that he devised with a group of students at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia. It was staged a couple of other times before it was picked up as a film, with Baz Luhrmann involved in adapting the story and directing the movie which was released in 1992. The film, featuring Paul Mercurio as 'Scott Hastings' and Tara Morice as 'Fran', went on to become one of the most successful Australian films of all time. The stage musical adaptation of the film was originally presented at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney, Australia in April 2014, with seasons in Melbourne and Brisbane in the following year. The UK Premiere - directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie - took place at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in December 2016, and it is this production that comes to London's Piccadilly Theatre in April 2018.
When this production opened here at the Piccadilly Theatre in April 2018, Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail described how "the staging is a bit of a mess and the plot’s conflict of artistic repression by 1980s Australian rednecks feels decidedly vieux tutu. Yet the whole thing is done with enough self-teasing and infectious japery that the West End may have another successful morale-lifter on its hands." Neil Norman in the Daily Express wrote that "director and choreographer Drew McOnie delivers some stunning dance numbers and negotiates his cast around a very crowded stage which includes a drop-dead-fabulous band. Catherine Martin’s costumes are eyepoppingly colourful and epically tacky – as they should be – and enhanced by similarly spectacular lighting." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times commented that "the comic charm of the film relies on the mismatch between the earnestness of the emotions and the daftness of the context. Here characters seem too aware they are in a comedy. Where the staging does come into its own is in McOnie's use of dazzling choreography." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph complained that it was a "bewilderingly vapid jukebox musical," explaining that "where the film had novelty and cinematographic elan, the theatrical spin-off contents itself with an abundance of blindingly garish costumes and the gurning caricature of types pushy, inept and twangingly accented," adding that "despite the redeeming adorability of central pair Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen - and much superb, slick, lithe choreography from Drew McOnie and the ensemble - it feels relentlessly manufactured and cynically feelgood." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that "it's a faithful recreation of the original narrative... yet despite the meticulous replication, gone is the easy charm of the film, replaced by a slightly desperate air of forced jollity beneath amply-applied fake tan." Dominic Maxwell in the Times highlighted that "the cast of Drew McOnie's production give it their all... the result is cluttered and restless. It's a cartoon... Jonny Labey is a strong, sinewy presence as Scott; Zizi Strallen is lively as his partner, Fran... but overall it's strictly so-so." Michael Billington in the Guardian thought it was a "laborious attempt to turn a charming 1992 movie into a fully fledged stage musical."
Matt Cardle made his West End theatre debut playing the role of 'Huey Calhoun', opposite Beverly Knight, in Christopher Ashley's production of Memphis the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2015. Jonny Labey is best known for playing the role of 'Paul Coker' in BBC TV's EastEnders from 2015 to 2016. His West End credits include Morgan Young's production of the Irving Berlin musical White Christmas at the Dominion Theatre in 2014. Zizi Strallen's London theatre credits include the role of 'Lana' in Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells in 2015; the role of 'Demeter' in Trevor Nunn and Gillian Lynne's production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot musical Cats at the London Palladium in 2014; the role of 'Meg in Maria Friedman's revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical Merrily We Roll Along at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2013; the role of 'Constance' in Kristin Hanggi's production of Chris D'Arienzo's musical Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2011; the role of 'Betty' in Matthew Bourne's Cinderella Sadler's Wells in 2010; and the role of 'Kathy Cratchit' in Bob Tomson's production of Leslie Bricusse's musical Scrooge at the London Palladium in 1995.
Drew McOnie's London theatre directing and choreography credits include Leonard Bernstein's On The Town at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park in 2017; and Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde at the Old Vic Theatre in 2016. His London choreography credits include Max Webster's production of David Greig's stage adaption of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax at the Old Vic Theatre in 2016, returned 2017; Timothy Sheader's revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park in 2016, returned 2017; and Sean Holmes's revival of Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith in 2015, returned 2016.
"A much-loved film, a talented choreographer and a cast who samba their sparkly butts off — but this pleasureless evening is as grimly formulaic as a ballroom champion’s rictus grin... The saddest thing about Drew McOnie’s production is that this gifted choreographer offers endless twiddles of dance, but no exhilarating big numbers. Where’s the lift-off? The jukebox score is crooned by the sherry-toned Will Young, the show’s roller-skating MC. McOnie directs in screechy primary colours, with Zizi Strallen’s goofy and heartfelt Fran the only visible human being. The costumes are all ruffles, dazzlepalette colours and sequined sequins — like the fabric, this charmless show is shiny but tacky as hell." The Sunday Times
"This stage version of Baz Luhrmann's much-loved Aussie film doesn't feel as unique as it did on screen. Will Young's decadent compere has a whiff of Cabaret's Emcee about him. And the moment when our hero, championship ballroom dancer Scott, played by former EastEnder Jonny Labey, discovers his wallflower dance partner Fran comes from a family of hot-blooded paso doble-dancing immigrants, it's as if the cast had sashayed into West Side Story... But it says something about this one that the best bits are where it makes you think of other shows. There is, though, much here that fans of Luhrmann's 1992 movie will enjoy. Not least the way his story both lampoons and loves the kitsch world of ballroom dancing, where dancers grin to the point of gurning... This is a show with a lot of heart... Young sings beautifully but is under-employed by the 1980s pop-medley score. Zizi Strallen is excellent as the blossoming Fran and the lantern-jawed, athletic Labey is also very good, if you enjoy dance as an Olympic sport." The Metro
"Director and choreographer Drew McOnie’s musical version brings in a narrator (Will Young). A mischievous figure, all moustache and black sequins, he pleasingly performs the iconic pop songs that make up the score. Time After Time sees Zizi Strallen’s bendy, leggy Fran touchingly learning to rumba with Jonny Labey’s strapping Scott, and in the night’s highlight the two are taught to paso doble by Fran’s Spanish flamenco-dancing dad. Shame other numbers aren’t as stirring. The budget seems to have been splurged on the costumes, though the overall visual flashiness dilutes the show’s emotional content. It also lacks satirical subtlety and charm. Some of the jokes are awfully laboured too. The show’s upbeat tone, as decency waltzes off in triumph, will please many." The Mail on Sunday
Strictly Ballroom in London at the Piccadilly Theatre previewed from 16 March 2018, opened on 24 April 2018 and closed on 27 October 2018