Strictly Ballroom The Musical


Thanks to Nuffnang, I was able to go see Strictly Ballroom the Musical last Tuesday. I was not too familiar with the story. I own the Red Carpet Trilogy Boxset DVD (comes with Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet) but I’d only watched Strictly Ballroom once, and it was a long time ago at best. Not that that mattered too much – I usually like going into a musical with little idea of where it’s going or what is to happen next.

Some minor spoilers under the cut – but mainly just my own thoughts and feelings.

31/1: I just re-watched the movie and have added some revisions down the bottom.

Now, I consider there to be two types of musicals – the dance musical and the sing song musical. The dance musical is one where the singing usually happens when the characters are performing, there is more speaking and of course, more dancing. Moulin Rouge is a good example of this – and dare I say it, High School Musical 3 to some extent. A sing song musical is almost 100% singing – IE the characters will sing to each other in conflict, love etc instead of speaking their feelings. Les Miserables, Chess and Rent, for example. Most musicals fall into the sing song category – I also think it is the more popular style of musical.

I personally prefer a sing song musical, mainly due to how powerful it can be to sing your words instead of speaking them. The song ‘Legally Blonde’ from Legally Blonde the musical is a good example of this. So when Strictly Ballroom started, I was very worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, for these reasons. I grew especially worried during the opening – however SB grew in charm as the musical went along.

I want to start with the lovely Phoebe Panaretos first, because as “nerd” Fran she is just sweetly adorable. I loved the plain cotton dress, glasses and curls. It all comes down to perfect casting, if you ask me. Now, Scott Hastings on the other hand, I didn’t like as a character. Thomas Lacey did a great job, I just thought his character was kind of an arse. I’m sure that is true to the movie, but Fran you could do so much better =P

Oh, I should add that the costumers are amazing! The sets too. I love the idea behind the sparkly colourful chairs. It really adds that extra element of audience participation. This also occurs when two unsuspecting audience members are brought up on stage to dance just after interval. And during the final number of Love is in the Air when joy and laughter fills in the room – I have never seen so many people dancing in one room, ever. Baz Luhrmann was right, there is no way that you can leave the theatre without a giant grin on your face after the show. Endorphins make you happy, remember that.

Whether intentionally or not, there were certain numbers that I felt drew from other musicals. A Life Lived in Fear (and I felt the same at the Media Call) had similarities to Moulin Rouge (also directed by Baz) – I think I’m thinking of the Hindi Sad Diamonds and a touch of the finale of Come What May. Whether I’m alone in that thought or not, I do not know. Shooting Star reminded me very much of scenes from Billy Elliot the musical. I can’t remember the musical exactly, but dancing with the mirrors and dry ice seemed very familiar. Or perhaps I’m just making this up. Still, Shooting Star was one of three of my favourite musicals numbers from the show. It also did a great job of highlighting just how talented Scott Hastings/Thomas Lacey are as dancers. Another of my favourites, Dance to Win reminded me of the Russian (I’m unsure what the name of the song is called) part during Fiddler on the Roof. And the finale was very Hairspray-esque.

My favourite musical numbers were Shooting Star, Dance To Win by Barry Fife & The Company (as mentioned before) and Beautiful Surprise by Fran and Scott Hastings. Phoebe brought such vulnerability to Beautiful Surprise, but not only that – there was so much power and passion in her voice. And that, my dear friends, is what I love about musical theatre! Stand out. Brilliant. I can’t praise enough!

I can’t really fault Baz or any of the crew involved in terms of theatricality. It’s a very colourful, lavish and joyful show. If I were to nit-pick, I would only say that the story is too simple and has had too much padded added to draw it out. But, as I cannot remember the original, I cannot say how similar it is in comparison. To give you an example, I thought Legally Blonde did the same but more successfully, except for the finale/shower scene. Besides, I don’t think anyone who sees either show would be disappointed – and as I said, that would be only said if I were to nit pick.

Personally, I very much enjoyed the show and I left the theatre with a smile on my face. I noticed, too, that on the train ride home I was humming to myself – which is always a good sign of a show well-enjoyed. I like the overall message of not living your life in fear. And I guess, Scott does kind of redeem himself at the end – even though I still think he’s kind of an arse … Still personal, Scott Hastings feelings aside, SB won’t appeal to everyone – which goes back to the dance musical thing. It just doesn’t have the overall appeal that Les Mis has (which I use only as an example because it was at Her Majesty’s Theatre before SB). But please don’t let that put you off because it is enjoyable nonetheless.

I also want to call out Lachlan Martin, as one of my favourite performers on the night. Not only did he gain laughs in the foreground; but always a the performer, he made me laugh when in the background.

My advice to anyone reading is to go see it for yourself =D Seriously, do!

Added 31/1

So having watched the movie, I can say that the musical is very similar to the movie. A lot of the script/jokes is very much word for word – especially the opening, which I had thought was done just for the musical, but it turns out it isn’t. I enjoyed the musical much more after watching the movie; and I enjoyed the movie more after having seen the musical. So take that as you may. Also, I don’t think it was at all padded – except for the obvious extra musical/dance numbers, which is, of course, expected and needed. So go figure. Watching the movie also cleared up some things that I had missed in the musical. 

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