Strictly dancing through the snow

Holding court: Strictly judges Craig Revel Horwood, who also directed and choreographed the show, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli

Strictly Come Dancing Live 2013

NIA Birmingham

****

ON a night when public transport froze to a halt and traffic was gridlocked there was no stopping the Strictly Come Dancing Juggernaut.  

The enthusiastic audience, on a treacherously cold night at Birmingham's NIA, had it's cockles warmed by the raucous Strictly Come Dancing gang on the first night of their 2013 live tour. 

It is a testament to the will of Birmingham folk and the pull of Strictly that the NIA was as full as it was, with people joining the party right up until the half time interval.  That the NIA managed to put on a show at all was almost as impressive as the fact that so many people managed to make the start.

If you're a fan of the TV show then there's plenty to love with it's live cousin.  

Bruce and Tess are absent as hosts but Kate Thornton shows a game nature, a good natural dancing ability and a surprising wit as host for the night; the result is she's more entertaining than Tess and far more pleasing on the eye than Brucey! 

The judges (Bruno, Len and Craig) may miss the elegance of Darcy Bussell but compensated with plenty of banter and a large dose of innuendo and spark - their marks, though ultimately pointless, provided a good structure to the evening and a guide to the audience as to who they rate and who they hate.

There were boos and cheers for their critiques, which any panto would be proud of; and the aforementioned banter with Kate Thornton was both ad-libbed and funny.  

Olympic gymnast Louis Smith who won the 2012 TV series and the opening night of the live tour to go one up in the series.

Craig Revel Horwood is the boss, quite literally, as he puts the whole show together and also directs it. He retains his fab-u-lous persona throughout and all three judges can be seen on large TV screens, so the audience don't miss a trick. 

Allan Rogers live band and the singers, headed by Tommy Blaize, are truly not done justice when seen on TV; the quality of their performances are superb and the singers are rightly given a chance to strut their stuff in each half, kicking off the performance.   

The night follows a similar structure to the TV final, with each couple performing two dances and then an audience text vote (with proceeds going to comic relief) deciding the winner. 

The couples take it in the right spirit but there is a definite divide in ability, the premier league performers are Denise and James, Dani and Pasha and Louis and Ola, with the fun also rans of Fern and Artem and Lisa and Robin bringing energy and hope to people in the audience without an Olympic Medal or a place at Sylvia Young.

Alas right down the batting order are the cricketing couples of Phil Tufnell and Karen and Michael Vaughan and Natalie. Tuffers gets by on his charm but Michael has to rely on his effort for audience brownie points.

To be fair, he tries his hardest, smiles enthusiastically through it and represents every lad who is embarrassed by his dancing but gives it a go anyway - and he's a better yardstick for the modern man than Louis is! 

Overall it's a really fun night, at times the night feels fractured but Kate Thornton does an admirable job at pulling it all together, the video links are perhaps the dullest part of the night but are a staging necessity such is the sheer amount if things going on.

The professional dance numbers let the professionals turn it up a notch without the shackles of a celeb and the group numbers are entertaining, not least because they show off how close some of the celebs are to their professional counterparts (Denise in particular oozes ability, as her perfect scores on the night demonstrated).

Denise Van Outen who had perfect scores on the tour's opening night and produced the dance of the show with her Charleston

The fun finale brought in the talents of Kate and the judges who seemed to be having a ball - bringing the audience to their feet.  

This reviewer was left stranded in town (thank you London Midland for deciding to cancel your late night trains because of a lack of staff rather than snow!) but still, standing in a slow moving, freezing cold taxi rank, I wittered on about Strictly and whether I preferred the Tuffers American Smooth or Dani's Rumba fusion more than the Van Outen Charleston. I've got to say it was the Charleston which was the dance of the night, the speed of it is mind blowing in person.    

With two more nights in Birmingham Saturday and Sunday, with both matinee and evening performances; if you can get a ticket (and brave the snow) then Strictly will reward you handsomely.  

This is a fun family night not just strictly for strictly fans and the finale will definitely have you tapping your toes. To 20-01-13

Theo Clarke 

Lisa Riley speaks about the tour

Home NIA Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre