WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Piccadilly Theatre
WHEN: 31/3, press night 24/4, runs to 21/7/18
The biggest compliment we can pay this West End production of the 1992 Baz Luhrmann-directed film is that we return to see it in a fortnight – and we couldn’t be more excited to do so.
- Read on for reasons including how Will Young’s new MC character fits into proceedings
There’s the unmistakeable aroma of lingering farts as we enter the auditorium for the 2nd preview of this new musical which we choose to believe has more to do with the burst pipe that brought the first preview to a premature close rather than the nervousness of those involved for what we are about to enjoy.
Will Young, nominated for an Olivier for his role as the Emcee in Cabaret in 2013, plays a similar master of ceremonies here, with the introduction of new character Wally Strand.
It enables him to move around the action and commentate on it, often humorously, giving the feel of a Will Young concert framing the story.
If that sounds distracting, it actually works really well, and it helps that the audiences for the star and film appear so intermingled.
We last saw Zizi Strallen in Follies at the National and here she is at her strongest playing Fran as a clumsy assistant at the dance studio so unremarkable that it takes a while to actually spot her in the ensemble.
The story that grabs is Scott’s (Jonny Labey perfect in all-dancing role where he has to be both maverick and called out for his own self-importance) search for a partner and the way he builds Fran’s confidence as they fall in love.
Well cast is Stephen Matthews as father Doug who has one of the most memorable scenes towards the end of the show.
Joyous signature song Love Is In The Air frames proceedings and Cyndi Lauper’s touching Time After Time is also used well.
Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will love the amateur ballroom dancing setting and the bawdy Australian humour of the film is retained.
Of course the film’s success was about the universality of dancing your own steps, being true to one’s self and not living in fear, and that message runs through all we see here.
This second preview deservedly won its standing ovation with the whiff of love, adoration and 5* success in the audience’s nostrils.