Hinch Showbiz

Strictly Speaking

A lot of bull Photo Courtesy of: production company

My Strictly Ballroom memories are vastly different to most people’s – partly because I have never seen the movie.

My memories include Tara Morice waiting tables at the restaurant in the Sebel Town House as she diligently danced during the day and dreamed of one day being a star. She was never an ugly duckling but you get the picture.

And memories of Paul Mercurio, Gus’s son. A passionate young man who loved dancing, his motorbike and brewing his own beer. Not necessarily in that order.

I’d seen clips of their raw, sensual paso doble – and was even more in awe once I donned a braided bolero on Dancing With the Stars and clumsily tried to emulate that Spanish diablo. Two step? No step.

Now, try adding to that the reputation of Baz Luhrmann (loved The Great Gatsby, didn’t like Moulin Rouge  with a sexless Nicole Kidman and forget about Australia) and  throw in the creative genius of Catherine Martin.

Can you blame me for being a little confused when I fronted up for the Opening Night of Strictly Ballroom in Melbourne at the weekend?

Also, I’d just flown down from Sydney and on the flight had read the PS item in the SMH that day  about how the show had closed five weeks early in that city. How 20 minutes had been cut for the Melbourne season.  How Eddie Perfect had got involved in re-working some of the songs. And how then-Premier Barry O’Farrell had invested some millions of his taxpayers’ money in yet another Luhrmann adventure that couldn’t possibly see a return on the dollar unless it somehow spring-boarded from Australia to the West End or Broadway.

To make things worse, I’d mis-read the invitation and the 7p.m. curtain and almost earned a shut out by arriving at 6.57p.m. after they’d rolled the red carpet.

Strictly stupid.

Even allowing for all of that I don’t think I’m out of line (or on my Pat Malone Saturday night) to come away thinking Strictly Ballroom was strictly limited. And the applause was mostly strictly constricted.

Dirty Dancing it aint.

The show has ‘wow factor’ costumes. Oscar winner Martin rarely misses. You almost take that for granted these days.

But the show, to be honest, is  a schmozzle. A dog’s breakfast.

Start with the leads in the Mercurio-Morice roles. The Herald Sun, trying to be nice, said: ‘The large cast enhances young stars Thomas Lacey (Scott Hastings) and Phoebe Panaretos (Fran) whose roles are still maturing’.

Hello?  This is Season Two. This isn’t try out time in Philadelphia. By Opening Night at Her Maj you are supposed to have matured. Even cheese does. Her dancing was shown up by the chorus and his grinning toreador was more mincing than menacing.

Robert Grubb appeared to be channelling Max Gillies playing Bob Hawke as the pivotal protector of ballroom dancing rules and etiquette in a show where ‘over the top’ seemed to be a directive from God (Baz?) Subtlety was left at the stage door.

What surprised me most about Strictly Ballroom was how little actual dancing there was and maybe it was my cynical interpretation, and I read  too much into it, but Baz had to be smart-arse Baz.  I’m  sure  that big placard-waving  dance revolution,  all pile-on barricades, number was a deliberate  'Up Yours’ at Les Mis.

I’d just finished writing this when I saw Jason Whittaker’s Crikey review. Makes mine sound like a rave.

He wrote in part:

Brand Baz, firing its powerful glitter cannons of mass distraction at anyone who dares question the merit of his work, may dazzle enough investors to take this tepid mess of a show to the world. Thereby proving once and for all there really is no justice in the business of show on stage.

Sorry, Baz. But anyone with an attention span longer than a goldfish can see through the razzle-dazzle to how dramatically and musically unsound this show is.’

I’m sorry too, Baz. He’s right.

 But Jeez, the costumes were great. Catherine Martin could turn dross into gold. 

And she has.





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