By Tatum Stafford
The Perth premiere of iconic Australian film-turned-musical Strictly Ballroom was nothing short of thrilling. It opened at the Regal Theatre on Saturday night, and was performed with great enthusiasm by WAAPA’s 2nd and 3rd year Music Theatre cohorts.
There is always something special about WAAPA’s mid-year musical. Be it contemporary or classical, the students continuously tackle the material with a liveliness and fresh take that seems often unachievable within industry-standard shows that feature more mature or experienced cast members. This production was no exception.
The two leads, Scott Hastings (Harry Targett) and Fran (Rose Shannon Duhigg) were absolutely remarkable together. Displaying a warm and joyous connection through dance, scene and song, the pair ignited the stage and made for quick crowd favourites with their solo numbers within Act I, ‘On The Edge’ and ‘Fran’s Epiphany’.
The families of the leading couple were also suitably captivating, and tackled some of the show’s more serious material with maturity, poise and where necessary, a cheeky grin to the audience. Tahra Cannon and Jackson Peele as Shirley and Doug Hastings were a charming riot, and Fran’s feisty Abuela (Ciara Taylor) and father Rico (Benjamin Barker) were performed with impressive accents and a fiery edge. Special mention must also go to Madeleine Jolly Fuentes and Luke Wilson for their adorably quirky portrayals of the Hastings’ children Kylie and Luke.
It’s no surprise that the true star of this show are its dancers. Whilst not all ensemble members were utilised within some of the show’s more flamboyant dance numbers (feather headdresses and all), those that were definitely captured the campy, cheesy vibe that this story is so well known for. The more senior dancers in the cast included Tina Sparkle (Grace Collins), Liz Holt (Annabelle Rosewarne) and Ken Railings (Conor Neylon) – all of whom dazzled in spectacular costumes and showcased many a high kick, lift and sassy ballroom step.
One of the beauties of this show is its extensive list of characters, all of whom are somewhat evenly represented throughout the storyline and song list. Perhaps my favourite moment of the night came when three of the show’s male characters; the flamboyant Barry Fife (Ethan Jones), Les Kendall (Jed McKinney) and JJ Silvers (Alexander Landsberry), burst into the hilarious number ‘Dance To Win’ – Swan Lake-inspired choreography and all.
Whilst the set was visually stunning and utilised glitzy lights, prop pieces and dropdown set pieces to evoke the ‘showy’ aspects of the piece, I did find it quite disorienting when ensemble members in full ballroom costumes were moving the set pieces from scene to scene. We were briefly introduced to one of the ballroom competition’s ‘crew’ (made up of ensemble members) at the start of the show, so naturally, when some of the women of the ensemble helped to move sets in glitzy, feathered and bouncy large skirts, it felt quite jarring and unintentional.
Overall, this show is everything you’d want it to be – glitzy, campy and jam-packed with hilarious jokes, quips and references that every Australian would love. Best of luck to anyone hunting for a ticket, though – the show has officially sold out its run. Magnifico!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.