Matt Byrne Media
Until 27 Jul 2019

Review by Brian Godfrey

Baz Luhrmann opened the gates to Hollywood for himself after his little 1992 Aussie movie “Strictly Ballroom” sashayed onto the big screen. In 2015, it dressed itself up as a musical and waltzed onto the stage as “Strictly Ballroom the Musical”. With a book by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, adapted by Terry Johnson and new songs by Eddie Perfect (but retaining such hits from the film as “Time After Time”, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” and “Love Is In The Air”), it is a fairly good tribute to the movie.

Matt Byrne’s production dazzles (thanks to Anne Williams’ brilliant costume designs), entertains and leaves one with a nice glow in their heart at the end.

Ballroom dancing is a whole different kettle of dancing pumps when it comes to comparing it to the usual style of musical theatre choreography. And with co-choreographers Tara Johnston and Thomas Coghlan, operators of Arthur Murray Dance Centre Adelaide and themselves ballroom dancing champions, the entire cast sweep and glide across the stage with well-rehearsed ease.

This could be the problem that causes the overall quality of the vocals, especially from the ensemble cast, to be somewhat scratchy and lacking in tonal quality. Perhaps (perhaps, perhaps – sorry, couldn’t resist) most of the rehearsal time was taken up getting the steps right. It must be pointed out, though, that vocals from most of the major characters were good.

As ballroom revolutionary Scott (he dares to improvise!) and ‘ugly duckling’ Fran, Kurt Benton and Kate Harrison shine. Benton can act and sing, but boy, can he DANCE! He even gives us those mercurial Mercurio moves and dances with grace and élan whilst Harrison works opposite him beautifully. It is so easy to believe them as a couple. And her transition from being clumsy at footwork to being expert is a delight to watch.

Three other bright stars on the dance floor are Angus Smith (Doug Hastings, Scott’s dad), Carolyn Adams (Shirley Hastings, Scott’s mum) and Niki Martin (Abuela, Fran’s very Spanish grandmother). Smith gives an outstanding performance, transitioning beautifully in his characterisation when required to. Adams is hilarious but scary as the Aussie dance mum from Hell, and looks and sounds every inch like Madge from the Palmolive commercials. Martin really impresses with just the right amount of sternness versus love for her grandchild and respect for Fran’s overprotective father, played well by Gavin Cianci, showing.

This production slides along quite well with only the occasional tiny stumble, and is just the right tonic to cure those chilly winter blues. So ladies, get out those frocks; men, polish up those shoes; and everyone, “Come Dancing”.