IF you’re looking for a sequinned treat this holiday season, Strictly Ballroom the Musical has arrived to keep you in a party mood.

Wall to wall sparkly clothing, dancing shoes and glamorous smiles – that was just the audience for the packed opening night at G Live in Guildford.

An alternative to panto, the musical is full of humour, music and dancing, plus enough bright lights and glitz to outdazzle a Christmas tree.

Kevin Clifton and Maisie Smith have dancing chemistry (Photo by Ellie Kurttz)

Strictly Ballroom is the tale of Australian dancer Scott Hastings, who wants to perform his own moves – “I’m sick of dancing someone else’s steps all the time”. 

The rebellious attitude brings him into conflict with the dance federation and its rigid rules on what is allowed, to the concern of his dance family, leaving him alone and vulnerable amid the cutthroat world of Aussie competitive ballroom dancing.

But it takes two to tango – and rumba, foxtrot and waltz – so he needs a new partner for the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship. And Scott ups the stakes by choosing to dance with absolute beginner Fran, who is trying to break out from the confines of her own family traditions.

The show’s big draw is Kevin Clifton in the role of Scott. A competitive dancer from childhood, and with seven series of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing under his sequins, he’s in his element here.

It’s a part that means a lot to him, since he first saw the film version when he was 10 years old and promised his parents – four-time British Latin American dance champions Keith and Judy – that if ever it was made into a musical, he would play Scott. He seizes the opportunity with both hands, giving his all.

The musical has enough lights, colour and sparkle to outdazzle a Christmas tree. (Photo by Ellie Kurttz)

He's ably supported by Maisie Smith as Fran. An award-winning actress, best known for her portrayal of Tiffany Butcher in EastEnders, she’s a genuine theatrical triple-threat with gorgeous singing voice and non-stop dance moves (she reached the Strictly Come Dancing final in 2020, and previously won a Children in Need special alongside Kevin).

There are further links to the juggernaut BBC show that has made ballroom and Latin dancing a mainstay of Saturday night TV, adding to the authenticity of the musical. Judge and performer Craig Revel Horwood is director and also co-choreographer with Jason Gilkison, the Strictly Come Dancing director.

The show whirls and twirls across the stage, with Scott and Fran facing family and competitive challenges but rising above it all as they fall in love.

For all the glitz and sparkle, and costumes more colourful than a tin of Quality Street, the most captivating moment is a toned-down setting for a spellbinding paso doble by Fran’s father, played by Jose Agudo.

The G Live audience held its collective breath watching him twist and drive, feeling every stamp of his heels upon the stage, in a powerful performance.

A cast of more than 20 world-class performers keep the stage full of spectacle, ending with a standing ovation in Guildford on opening night.

Strictly Ballroom the Musical runs at G Live until Friday 30 December.