Entertainment & Arts

Strictly Ballroom: Not many 10s for West End musical

The cast of Strictly Ballroom Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption The cast of Strictly Ballroom. Other carbonated drinks are available

The Times called it "Strictly so-so". The Telegraph described it as "bewilderingly vapid". But for The Sun, it was "a joyous, heart-melting blast".

Those are some of the verdicts on Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom musical.

The Times dismissed the stage version of the director's 1992 film, which has just opened at London's Piccadilly Theatre, as "cluttered and restless".

The Telegraph said it was "relentlessly manufactured" - but the Daily Mail called it a "successful morale-lifter".

First staged in Sydney in 2011 with original numbers, the show now features existing songs by Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper and others.

They are sung at the Piccadilly by former Pop Idol winner Will Young, who was briefly a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016.

Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption Will Young (centre) plays the show's moustachioed narrator

Young plays Wally Strand, the show's narrator - a role that The Independent's critic Holly Williams suggested is "hardly necessary".

The Stage's Tim Bano agreed, calling Wally "a character straight out of panto" and saying Young "generally hangs around on stage looking bored".

Not everybody gets a kicking in Drew McOnie's production, though. Indeed, the critics had nothing but praise for Zizi Strallen, the show's leading lady.

The London Evening Standard applauded her "impeccable" acting and dancing, while Metro said she was "excellent".

Strallen - one of four performing sisters whose aunt is Bonnie Langford - plays Fran, the reluctant partner of ballroom maverick Scott.

Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption Zizi Strallen and Jonny Labey play Fran and Scott, the show's young leads

The show, like the film, follows Scott's battle against an inflexible establishment that insists dancers stick to official dance steps.

In his four-star review, the Mail's Quentin Letts praised the musical's "self-teasing and infectious japery" while conceding its staging "is a bit of a mess".

The Times, though, could only spare two stars for a show that "never shows any real passion". Critic Dominic Maxwell sighed: "It's hard to be amused by a show so desperate to amuse."

Strictly Ballroom is currently booking until 20 October 2018.

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