See & Do

Strictly Ballroom #StrictlyStage

Strictly Ballroom is the film that catapulted director Baz Luhrmann and his set and costume designer wife Catherine Martin to fame. It was the film that first brought Australia to me when I was a teenager living in Miami. Now that I live here in Australia, I’m excited to experience it in a whole new way. This much beloved film has been turned into a stage show and it’s ready to wow Melbourne with a kaleidoscope of colour and fun.

Strictly Ballroom tells the story of a championship ballroom dancer struggling to express his creativity and establish his personal style in a world defined by strict rules. Ultimately, it is the story of a hero’s journey, of triumph, and, of course, love.

It has been Luhrmann’s labour of love for 30 years. The story began in 1984. Luhrmann was studying at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Sydney and he drew on his personal experience as a competitive ballroom dancer to write the 40-minute play with fellow students.

An expanded version of the play was a success at the Czechoslovakian World Youth Drama Festival in 1986. In 1988, Luhrmann met designer Catherine Martin who joined his ensemble. They took the play to Brisbane and Sydney where it was an immediate hit.  Long story short, it was made into a film, which screened at Cannes in 1992 and received a 15-minute standing ovation becoming one of the biggest hits of the film festival. Global distribution followed. It was a huge success worldwide and received numerous accolades including eight AFI awards, three BAFTA awards, and a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture.

After more success with Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Australia (2008), and The Great Gatsby (2013), Luhrmann and Martin returned to Strictly Ballroom, adapting it into a stage musical that premiered in Sydney in April 2014. The production has now arrived at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne.

I attended the media call and got a sneak peek at the show. I saw a few numbers spent a little time up close with Luhrmann, Martin, and some of the stars of the show. I also got a backstage tour. All the photos that follow are mine.

Disco ball
Of course there’s a giant disco ball in the theatre.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Getting ready for the Samba.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
The Hastings, Fran, and Barry Fife look on as dancers perform the Samba.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
The Hastings, Fran, and Barry Fife look on as dancers perform the Samba.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Tina Sparkle and Ken Railings.
Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin.
Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin chat with the small audience in between scenes.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Doug Hastings reminisces.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Scott Hasting and Fran falling in love over Time After Time.
Catherine Martin on stage with Thomas Lacey (Scott) and Pheobe Panaretos (Fran).
Catherine Martin on stage with Thomas Lacey (Scott) and Pheobe Panaretos (Fran).
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Scott meeting Fran’s family and learning how to dance the paso doble are some of my favourite scenes in the film.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Abuela teaches Scott the paso doble.
Strictly Ballroom performers.
Fernando Mira as Rico, Fran’s father, is incredible.
The cast performing A Life Lived in Fear.
The cast performing A Life Lived in Fear.
Cast of Strictly Ballroom.
Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, and the cast of Strictly Ballroom the Musical.
The cast of Strictly Ballroom the Musical.
The cast of Strictly Ballroom the Musical.
Wigs
Backstage. There are 70 wigs for the cast.
Costumes
Backstage.
Costumes
Backstage in the bunker, where the actors run in, dress as quickly as possible, and run out.
Pheobe Panaretos and Thomas Lacey.
Pheobe Panaretos and Thomas Lacey.

Strictly Ballroom the Musical runs through 3 May 2015 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. For more information and to book your tickets, please visit the website here.

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