Strictly Ballroom is a new musical based on an Australian movie of the same name. It premiered in Sydney, Australia in 2014, had a run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, England, and is now doing a run in Toronto, Canada until June 25. Baz Luhrmann directed the movie and created and wrote the book for the musical.
The plot of this musical is very simple, which is one of the things I like about this musical. Competitive ballroom dancer, Scott Hastings (Sam Lips), runs into trouble at a major competition because he wants to dance to the beat of his heart and not the beat of the music. This causes his long time partner, Elizabeth Holt (Lauren Stroud), to leave him for a new partner. Thankfully, Fran, Just Fran (Gemma Sutton), who works at Scott’s dance studio, Kendall’s, tells him that she wants to be his new partner. Fran is just a beginner ballroom dancer but she knows he needs a partner and says she is willing to learn and wants to do it. Scott is desperate and needs a partner for the biggest competition in Australia that is only three weeks away and reluctantly agrees. And the rest is history. It’s a classic story of follow the rules or follow your heart, do what you want to do or do what your parents want you to do, and what lengths would you go to win. What really is “winning” anyways?
This show was a heck of a lot of fun to be at. The music was such a bop! There was some ballroom type music (like tango and salsa put to lyrics), some traditional Broadway style songs, and since Fran is Spanish some songs had a Spanish flare. The sets and costumes were also so extravagant. There were sparkles and sequins everywhere and every colour was the brightest you could possibly imagine. Like highlighter pink and bright turquoise. They were beautiful and so detailed and I really thought they captured the world of competitive dance really well. In the world of competitive dance, there are a lot of sparkles, sequins, and extravagant costumes. The set was also really cool. It was like one piece that got moved around and opened and closed and served as many locations from Kendall’s dance studio to Scott’s home to Fran’s home to the dance hall and it was really cool.
Because this is a musical about ballroom dancing, this musical is obviously very dance heavy. This musical made me fall back in love with dance. I mean Newsies did a good job of that too but this is different. This made me fall in love with the art of dance and what it means to be a dancer. I grew up doing ballet, modern, and jazz 3-5 days a week. Scott Hastings has a really beautiful solo early in the show (and Sam Lips is a gorgeous dancer) and it just made me re-realize that dance is a beautiful art form and I wish I had half the talent of everyone in the cast. Dance is powerful. It’s about expressing yourself and there’s a certain freedom to it that non-dancers can’t understand. I think this mentality was something that Scott was struggling with throughout the show and it was just super relatable to someone who is a dancer.
Overall, I enjoyed this show. It wasn’t my favourite show ever, but it was alright. It was not super elaborate or deep and meaningful, it was just a fun afternoon. I liked this show because I think some people forget that musical theatre is about more than just singing an acting. There’s a heck of a lot of dancing involved in it too, especially if you’re in the ensemble. Most musicals have an ensemble doing all kinds of dance elements but I think they are often overlooked because people are paying more attention to the principal actors, which I guess is kind of the point. But still, dance is a powerful storyteller and deserves more recognition in the musical theatre world. If you’re looking for something fun to do for a few hours in the next week or so, go see this show, tickets are cheap and it is a fun show.
Which “triple-threat” activity would you like to do? Sing? Act? Dance? Let me know in the comments!
This week, I made a playlist called Blue (I think I named it that since there’s blue on all the album covers) but it’s just a compilation of songs that I think go really well together. Check out my Mixtapes page and enjoy!