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Review: Strictly Ballroom: The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre

Strictly Ballroom. Credit: Ellie Kurttz

EastEnders star Maisie Smith led a fantastic cast last night as Strictly Ballroom: The Musical danced its way onto the stage of Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.

The story originates from 1984, Baz Luhmann and a group of students from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) devised a stage play that we can all relate to. Even if we don’t all know a Cha Cha Cha from a Rumba or a Pasodoble. 

The stage play was transformed into a film in 1992 and became one of Australia’s most successful films. Winner of the Prix de Jeunnesse at the Cannes Film Festival, an impressive 13 nominations and 8 wins in major categories at the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards. The list of accolades go on. It wasn’t until 2014, Strictly Ballroom The Musical made its premiere on the stage at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre.

The story of Scott Hastings, rebellious Australian championship ballroom dancer who refuses to stick to the status quo; follows his own style as well as his heart. There’s more than one way to Tango and the radical dance style Hastings performs sees him disfavoured by the Australian Federation.

Paired up with a local girl Fran, who’s a beginner in dance and has two left feet; they give it everything they have in the hopes of winning the National Championship title.

There were unfortunately a few changes in the cast; with Strictly star Kevin Clifton notably missing, Edwin Ray quickstepped into the spotlight as Scott Hastings. The sassy Tina was played by Agnes Pure, Stylianos Thomadakis stepped into the shoes of Wayne, Vanessa played by Hollie Jane Stephens and Liz was played by Liv Alexander.

Edwin held his own magnificently thanks to his vast experience on the West End, with his voice echoing around Wales Millennium Centre. His kicks and flicks kept up with co-lead Maisie, truly showing the new found passion shy Fran has in dance.

Pictured: Maisie Smith. Credit: Ellie Kurttz

The costumes were fabulous darling, bright, glittery and as feathery as expected, with fantastic staging and fake tans to rival the best Strictly stars!

With cheeky gags throughout, you could tell director and co-choreographer Craig Revel Horwood – Britain’s best loved TV Judge – had given the show his personal touch, with characterised Craig as camp as ever.

The off-stage band belted out smash-hits Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, and Time After Time mixing in original songs written by the iconic Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect. Maisie showed she was a real triple threat, with a soft voice drawing emotion during Reflection in Your Eyes, before drawing gasps with her fantastic dancing that has only improved since her stint on Strictly Come Dancing.

A special mention goes to Jose Agudo who played Fran’s father Rico, as his traditional Paso Doble kept the audience captivated with his heels, claps and a single guitar being the only sound heard in the whole Donald Gordan Theatre. His performance ended to riotous applause with cheers echoing around the audience; it was a truly traditional and mesmerising dance.

The final scene saw Scott and Fran dance to the beat of their own drum, in incredible dress and engaging lighting, proving that you don’t have to be strictly ballroom to thrive in the dance world! Or in life, Luhmann’s hope was for the audience to see “within us all we have the true potential to dance through life with our own steps”.

The new musical is a hit, the stars are fantastic, and I can’t wait to join in the party once more!

With only five dates left in Cardiff, get your dancing shoes on and don’t forget the sequins. 

Age guidance: 12+ (Contains strong language and adult themes.)

Running time: Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes (including one interval)

Tickets start from £18.50 and can be booked here.