Matt Byrne Media tackles the iconic Australian fairytale Strictly Ballroom and nails it!
It was with some trepidation that I waited for the curtain to rise on opening night. I loved Strictly Ballroom the movie when it made its debut in 1992 and Strictly Ballroom the musical when I saw it in Melbourne in 2015 – so my level of expectation was pretty high!
I was not disappointed. From the moment the curtain goes up the audience is transported back to the 80’s and all the loveable larger-than-life Aussie characters are there in the full glitz and glamour world of competitive ballroom dancing. Matt Byrne was obviously born to play the domineering but comic Barry Fife. Kurt Benton and Kate Harrison are wonderful and believable in the lead romantic roles of Scott Hastings and Fran. It was a pleasure to watch the development of their characters’ relationship and their dancing.
All of the leading characters are strongly portrayed and true to Baz Luhrmann’s comic originals – Carolyn Adams as ambitious mother Shirley Hastings and Angus Smith as hen-pecked Doug Hastings, Max Rayner as family confidante Les Kendall, Lauren Weber and Joel Amos as Liz Holt and Ken Railings, Gavin Cianci and Niki Martin as Fran’s Spanish family Nico and Abuela, Jayke Melling and Shivawn Young as dance competitors Wayne and Vanessa, and Jessica Wolfendale as the glamorous Tina Sparkle. Emcee JJ Silvers (Wade Cook) keeps the competitions moving along and young performers Arwen Diamond (Kylie Hastings) and Calin Diamond (Luke) add some spectacular moves.
This is a big production with significant input from many people behind the scenes. The costumes were stunning Anne Williams, and the lighting was very effective and truly lovely at times (or time after time..) Rodney Bates. The many scene changes were executed well. Congratulations to Stage Manager Lance Morgan and the whole crew.
Matt Byrne’s extremely talented cast obviously spent months in rehearsal on their dance steps alone and it has paid off. This was a great night at the theatre.