Strictly Ballroom The Musical ***: Kevin Clifton steps into spotlight in song and dance

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It may have a former Strictly star’s name in lights, and choreography by a Strictly judge, plus the show’s resident choreographer, but this isn’t a Strictly show. Had it been, I’d have given it a solid seven, while leaving my ten paddle just out of reach. Second thoughts, make that an eight ...

Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is based on Baz Lughrmann’s 1992 hit movie - which went on to inspire BBC’s Strictly - and it certainly has more than enough to appeal to its fans as well as those who come for the glitz, the glamour and the costumes.

It’s character driven and a feel good musical which saves the very best for the end of the first and second halves as it tells the story of Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton) the king of the dance floor whose unconventional moves go against the rules and ruffle the feathers of head judge Barry Fife (Gary Davis) in his bid to land the Pan Pacific Grand Prix title.

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He ends up without a partner or a trophy. Enter Fran (Fay Brookes), the absolute beginner and plain jane; a mousey wee figure in the shadow of the dance floors queens who wants to step into the spotlight.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Fay Brookes and Kevin Clifton (Pic: Ellie Kurttz)Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Fay Brookes and Kevin Clifton (Pic: Ellie Kurttz)
Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Fay Brookes and Kevin Clifton (Pic: Ellie Kurttz)

Clifton and Brookes work superbly well together - the chemistry between them is integral to the show given how much of it rests on Clifton’s shoulders - and they nail the very best of the humour which, elsewhere, falls slightly flat.

The story has a hint of Cinderella to it, and while it touches on off-stage bullying and the shenanigans of judges trying to fix the big events, and parents trying to exert undue influence, it’s all about the dance floor. Clifton is in his element here, superbly backed by a talented ensemble, and Brookes is a great match for him too.

And who knew Kevin from Grimsby could sing as well? He more than holds his own in the musical numbers even if many of the numbers are a tad forgettable - musically it really takes until the finale with Love Is In The Air for everyone to cut loose, and get the audience on its feet.

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And of course the choreography is razor sharp - as you’d expect from Craig Revel Horwood. The flamenco and Paso skills of Jose Agudo as Rico were a masterclass and a joy to watch. And that, ultimately, is what brings folk through the doors.

Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is at the Playhouse until Saturday., Tickets at

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