Strictly something

Strictly Ballroom (Global Creatures and Bazmark)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

September 9 – October 17

The plot the 1992 Australian film “Strictly Ballroom” is simple; Scott a great young ballroom dancer has grown restless with the expectations of conventional dancing so tries to mix things up with some maverick steps of his own steps, to the horror of the dance commissioners. Shunned by the other dancers (his partner included), he takes to the floor with newcomer to dance, wallflower Fran whose Spanish family teach him how to embrace his passion. This is all against the urging of his family who are keen to foster a new partnership between Scott and the all-star Tina Sparkle to pursue dreams of winning the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship.

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The result of the stage realisation of the film maintains the simplicity of the storyline, but amplifies its aesthetics to create a colourful and energetic musical with more sequins, feathers and diamantés on stage than the eye can appreciate. Add in a glitter ball and sparkling seat covers to divide the audience into respective colour sections of blue, orange, pink or green and you are surely set for a smash hit show, especially given that the production has been brought to the stage by the original creative team behind the film, including director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann and set and costume designer Catherine Martin. Yet, although all the ingredients are evident, there seems to be something strictly missing the inflation of this already-light story.

big cast

The 30+ cast of performers are expert in the gleeful exaggeration required of the show’s ostentatious costuming and choreography. Indeed, its effective direction and conscious irreverence are clear from its initial minutes of the kitschy ‘Heavenly Pineapple’. And, as one would expect from a production with such large cast, its big dance numbers are the highlights, such as when Scott boleros-up in a boisterous Spanish number to signpost Act One’s crescendo into intermission.

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When the film’s classic songs, such as John Paul Young’s ‘Love is in the Air’ feature, they are carried along by their timeless appeal, however, the addition of new songs by artists such as Eddie Perfect and Sia seem to serve only as obviously space fillers to stretch its running time to that more appropriate for a stage musical. Additional to this is the distraction of too many scene changes and often unnecessary staging rotation, which rather than adding interest, ultimately detract from narrative cohesion

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Fans of movie will of course be satisfied, especially in seeing its iconic scenes brought to life, such as a dancing dip in front of neon billboard. And there is certainly no mistaking its Australian setting given its colloquial language, boganism and over-the-top campness, played to extravagant perfection by Sophia Katos as Liz, Scott’s initial despairing dance partner. However, the standout supporting performances come from Scott’s parents; Heather Mitchell is excellent as his tunnel-visioned mother, always appropriately pantomime-like in her performance. And Darren Gilshenan’s Doug Hastings, who comes out of shell as an anti-dance-hero in a flashback, is clearly a crowd favourite. Comparatively as leads, Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos do what is required of them but don’t really exceed expectations.

flashback

“Strictly Ballroom” is hyper-real visual feast, however, putting on the glitz with two-dimensional characters and a paper-thin plot results in inconsistencies when it comes to substance. Still, it is as it promises to be – a colourful kaleidoscope of froth and glittery bubble, worth a visit for those wanting to add some fairy-floss to the musical theatre diet.

Ballroom beckons

The Story That Inspired The World to Dance is set for a Brisbane season in 2015 with Global Creatures confirming today that Baz Luhrmann’s hit show “Strictly Ballroom The Musical” will be opening at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre in September 2015.

The popular stage musical, which had its World Premiere at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre last year and is currently playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, comes well-credentialed,  having received a swag of 2014 Helpmann Award nominations, including for Best Musical.

This production is staged by the original creative team behind the classic 1992 film, including director and co-writer Baz Luhrmann and, set and costume designer Catherine Martin. And in terms of films, it is certainly an Australian classic with its inspiring story of a championship ballroom dancer who defies all the rules to follow his heart, earning more than $80 million at the box office.

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Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos will be playing the principal roles of Scott and Fran, made famous in the much loved film. Fans will be pleased to know that “Strictly Ballroom The Musical” features many break-into-song numbers created from original classics from the film, including ‘Love is in the Air’, ‘Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps’, and ‘Time After Time’. However, these will be joined by new songs by artists such as Eddie Perfect and Sia.

Although music and dance take pride of place within the show, at its core, this is a story with great heart. “I think the simple truth is that, despite all the sequins, outrageous hairdos and classic Hollywood musical plotting, the simple message that ‘there isn’t only one way to cha cha cha’ and that ‘within us all we have the true potential to dance through life with our own steps,” said Director, Baz Luhrmann.

Whether you are lured by the cha cha cha or the charm, don’t miss out on experiencing the glitz and glamour of “Strictly Ballroom”, live on stage at QPAC, tickets for which go on sale on Monday 2 March 2015 via www.qpac.com.au or by calling 136 246.