Baz Luhrmann’s latest creation is bursting at the sequined seams of the Lyric Theatre. Strictly Ballroom: The Musical has finally arrived and Luhrmann sure knows how to put on a show.
In an explosion of colour and feathers, the classic tale about overcoming repression flamboyantly enthrals audiences as much as the 1992 film did (and still does).
It is the Pan Pacific Championship of a project that began at NIDA decades ago, when Luhrmann and a group of students devised a short production set in the gaudy world of ballroom dancing.
Luhrmann’s holistic creative approach and boundless imagination means his hand is involved in every aspect of the production, from the design, to the direction and the music.
The notes feel like they were written for the stunning co-lead Phoebe Panaretos (Fran) who outshines all except the hilarious Heather Mitchell (Shirley Hastings). The talented Thomas Lacey (Scott Hastings) gives a solid performance as the male lead but is sometimes underwhelming on a very busy stage beside Panaretos’ bright star.
The original and rousing Love Is A Leap Of Faith written by Sia Furler and Luhrmann is the hit song. It stirs the audience even more than the obligatory Love Is In The Air – the expected high kick of the production.
Catherine Martin’s costumes are yet another ‘win’ for the designer, referencing familiar elements from the film and amplifying them for the stage.
Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is an entertaining, lively night at the theatre that will delightfully overload the senses.
Until Jul 6, Lyric Theatre, Pirrama Rd, Sydney, $55-145, strictlyballroomthemusical.com
Amended review first appeared in City Hub, City News and The Bondi View, April 17th, 2014