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Review – Sparkle and glitter at Strictly Ballroom

It's flamenco time at the milk bar.

Scott Hastings (Thomas Lacey) and Fran (Phoebe Panaretos) get working on the paso doble.

Strictly Ballroom the Musical

Produced by Global Creatures/Bazmark

Book by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

Original Score and arrangements Elliott Wheeler

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Musical Director Daniel Edmonds

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season: continues until October 17. Running time: two hours forty minutes including interval. Bookings: QTIX 136 246

All that glisters is not gold - and there was plenty of non-gold glistering on the Lyric stage. The whole show, from curtains to costumes, and even the seats in the stalls sparkled with sequins, colour, and glitter – and the sky was dotted with shining stars. Designer Catherine Martin’s set and costumes were a delight for the eyes. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like Tina Sparkles’ pineapple costume!

The entire production shone in every aspect; casting, design, lighting, costume, songs, dance, music, and energy. The ten-piece band produced some great sounds too for some great songs – Happy Feet, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, a Life Lived in Fear, The Looks, The Charm was a lot of fun, a fast moving Yesterday’s Hero and of course Love is in the Air.

Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie transferred effortlessly to the stage with huge production numbers, romantic moments, flashing flamenco, and even a heart warming story to fill in between the dancing.

There’s Scott Hastings, amateur dance champion with a yearning to break away from the old-fashioned traditional steps and create his own choreography and the ultra-conservative judges panel. Scott comes from a family with a history of ballroom dancing and has been training since childhood.

Then we have down-trodden Dad Doug who handles maintenance at the ballroom dancing school and seems to be lost in a dream, pushy mum Shirley, pl;ayed by Heather Mitchell, who runs the school and is determined that Scott will become the Pan Pacific Champion. Then we have the dowdy but ambitious Fran, who we know will get to the ball in a gorgeous gown and will win the prince.

When Scott’s regular partner Liz, sick of his progressive moves, dumps him Fran starts her trip to the top.

Will the expert and the beginner make it to the Pan Pacifics or will the champion dancer Tina Sparkle, also suddenly partnerless, become Scott’s partner? And what is the mystery that dogs the competition?

All is gently revealed in between the amazing dance routines. The ballroom scenes are all glamour, but for me the highlight was when Scott meets Fran’s Spanish family and he learns the flamenco way to dance the paso doble in a fabulous sequence danced to Bizet’s music by Fernando Mira who played Fran’s father.

The set, lighting, and costumes were nicely subdued to contrast to the fiery music. It was a great performance.

Thomas Lacey played the frustrated Scott, a man torn between his dream and family loyalty. He has been a dancer since the age of two and is an established actor on stage and television. He has a great dance style and a good singing voice and was the perfect foil for Phoebe Panaretos’ Fran. They were terrific with their poignant solo Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

I enjoyed Darren Gilshenan’s low-key portrayal of the sad Doug and Robert Grubb’s nicely sleazy performance as the conniving Barry Fife.

I had a few problems with high pitched voices and must admit to being a bit confused by the ending. After a fantastic finale and a rousing Love is in the Air the audience rose to its feet as the company took the bows. Then audience members were pulled onto the stage for some more dancing, which left us standing with nowhere to go. Did we sit down again or make our way out?

It seemed a bit silly to extend the show after such a great finish.

It was all glamour and glitter in the Lyric stalls. (Photo Deanne Scott)