Strictly Ballroom The Musical | Global Creatures and BazmarkLeft – Phoebe Panaretos and Thomas Lacey. Cover – Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos. Photos – Jeff Busby

Opening night of Strictly Ballroom The Musical, and the audience filters into the Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Complex, all done up ‘nice’n’sparkly’ for the performance. I love QPAC – they go all out to give the audience that, “Welcome, you’re here, we love to see you, have a fabulous evening, we’ve spared no expense.” The glimmering curtain opens – let the show begin...

Remember watching ballroom dancing on television and trying to choose which outfit you loved the most? Well, try and pick a winner from this line-up, I double-dare you! Let’s give credit where credit is due and regale the awesomeness of Catherine Martin, who not only designed the costumes bursting onto the stage with fantasia-esque colourama but designed the sets as well! These sets that seamlessly appeared and disappeared, sliding in and out, turning up and down and around, bringing you into the limelight, onto the stage and into the arms of the dancers. Set the scene and the rest will follow, and what a scene Catherine Martin has manufactured.

As diverse and different as the costumes and the set changes, the characters and personalities explode onto the stage with all the requisite emotions you want to experience in one night of a performance, showcasing this stellar cast. You know them – you’ve either had to dance with them, or work with them, or play with them. Some are your mum, or your dad, your first love or your bitchy girlfriend.

The ‘ockerness’ of the lingo has the audience loving, loathing and laughing all at the same time. Dad jokes? Mixed metaphors? Quips and slips-of-the-tongue and ribald reverie carries the audience into the show on so many levels. 

The music and singing leaves you wanting for nothing: the dancers glide and jig and rocket around the stage (“We’ll see who’s been workin’ and see who’s been shirkin’”) – and let me attest to the fact that this is definitely a shirk-free zone! 

The story unfolds and better than a movie, you can see the breath, the heartbeat and the passion behind every move – lips and hips uniting on so many levels. The audience simultaneously wanted to be ballroom dancers, and then Spanish! Pass the doble to me, please, Fernando Mira – you made every woman’s heart beat faster with your passion and poise! “Let the rhythm set you free... feel the rhythm and feel the passion!” Ole!

Rohan Browne stood in for Thomas Lacey, playing the lead role of Scott Hastings. Well, I don’t know what Mr Lacey has on offer, but Rohan nailed it and was a fitting counterpart for Fran (Phoebe Panaretos) who sings like a rock-star angel. What a voice – mesmerising with powerful delivery, she held the audience in her hand. Between the singing and the dancing, the characters were a hoot and a holler: Shirley Hastings as the distraught mother (Heather Mitchell, you are a crack-up) and Barry Fife (Robert Grubb) with Les Kendall (Bob Baines) and Doug Hastings (Darren Gilshenan) all doing their utmost to show us that ‘there’s more than one way to Cha Cha Cha’! 

The Time After Time sequence alone sent a wave of memories with goose-bumpage: that Fran is a gem! The dancers and Daddy Doug with split sets and something happening in every corner of the stage: this show is a must-see for everyone, young and old. The choreographer (John O’Connell, legend) providing vignettes-of-multi-reference with the Russian Stalin-dance-moves splitting my face with a huge grin! Pure genius.

A show of this magnitude gives everyone a chance to shine: what a collaborative effort and what a performance. Some of my favourite quips: “Why gardening son? Is it because you’re such a dynamic lifter? He’s pissin’ in the wind whilst we’re right behind him. One bad egg spoils the barrell...”

Oh, just go and see it, please! After all, as the show outlines, “Strictly Ballroom is all you need....”

Global Creatures and Bazmark presents
Strictly Ballroom The Musical
by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Venue: Lyric Theatre | QPAC Cultural Precinct, South Bank, Brisbane
Dates: From 9 September 2015
Tickets: refer to website
Bookings: | 136 246

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