A whimsical review of Strictly Ballroom The Musical at Sydney Lyric

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived”

strictly ballroom musical

This is the Australian production of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, which is based on the classic 1992 film (you’ll know it if you were born in the early 80′s – it was the one of the most famous Australian films of all time, up there with stuff like Crocodile Dundee). The latest production is fairly new – the global premiere was at Sydney Lyric in April 2014 and we caught it a couple of days ago.

strictly ballroom tickets

I didn’t realize I’ve watched the original movie and knew most of the songs by heart so when it was described to me, I thought it sounded like a the love child of a threesome involving West Side Story, Romeo & Juliet and Dirty Dancing.

strictly ballroom merchandise

I’m a huge fan of musicals, and caught a lot of them during my 2010 backpacking trip through Europe, starting with Wicked in West End. I even watched Les Misérables in French!

I did not understand a single word. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement, maybe I understood 7 but it’s definitely something you can count with your fingers.

strictly ballroom sydney lyric

To be perfectly honest, I thought I was in for a slightly dry Australian play but I was keen to catch a musical here, especially a local one.

strictly ballroom australia

As I settled in my seat and took in the gorgeous period posters and large disco ball on the ceiling of Sydney Lyric, I started to get into the interactive elements where your section of the theater cheers for a particular ballroom dancing competition couple. I won’t spoil it for you, but don’t worry, it’s nowhere near the over-the-top madness of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

strictly ballroom pose

…and then there was the pivotal scene, a familiar snippet of lyric which was done in conversational spoken word, the part where ballroom dancing movements were taught to the Latino main female lead (which arguably is the best scene in the musical)

If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re *lost*, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you will find me.
If you’re lost, and you turn, and you WILL find me.
Time after time

The spoken word segued into a beautiful and powerful sotto song from the male lead and I thought to myself “I KNOW THIS SONG!”.

Memories flooded back and I was hooked – all the songs were familiar and I found myself tapping my feet, singing along and wanting to go on the large conga line that formed after the encore with the cast leading members of the public up to the stage.

strictly ballroom stage

It was the best musical I’ve watched in Australia. I wanted to sing, I wanted to tap my feet and I wanted to dance! It made me feel alive and loved every single moment of it!

strictly ballroom props

In that way, Strictly Ballroom lived up to “The story that inspired the world to dance”, at least for me, an a little old lady in her late 60′s, wheelchair bound and breathing oxygen, but clapping her hands happily as the musical went through songs like Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and of course, Time After Time.

strictly ballroom program

I guess if I had one negative thing to say about Strictly Ballroom The Musical, it would be the Coca-Cola advertisements / product placement, which I found to be intrusive and detracts from the entire experience.

…and with that said, let’s move on to:

(let me do the intentional irony smirk first)

smirk

Short mention:

I’m still in New South Wales, having a lot of fun taking photos and videos with my Xperia Z1. I’m staying at Ramada Resort Shoal Bay, which is about 3 hours from Sydney. It’s located in the Port Stephens area and we had a lot of water activities, sandboarding and ATV riding over sand dunes which can be really bad for regular smartphones…

…but not for the waterproof and dust resistant Z1! I did all those activities and just washed my smartphone and it was as good as new! I even took a walkthrough of my wonderful beach facing suite as soon as I got back. Check out the video above, it’s shot in 1080p Full HD. I’m looking forward to the Xperia Z2 coz that has an even higher recording mode – 4K! :)

strictly sydney

I just came back from a night of Vivid Sydney, experiencing lots of interactions, including one that’s inspired by Strictly Ballroom The Musical! It’s called MirrorBall Heart (Installation # 19 – it’s the one with the disco dance floor and a heart with “Strictly Sydney” on it) and it’s just a short walk away from the hotel. Catch up with what I’m doing on my other social media channels:

http://instagram.com/sixthseal
https://twitter.com/sixthseal
https://www.facebook.com/SixthSealcom

Posted: 8:26 am Sydney time (GMT +2)

Wicked the Musical in London

wicked the musical

Wicked the Musical is one of the best musicals I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. It’s currently showing at Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. Yup, I caught the West End cast in this award winning production! :)

wicked

Wicked is actually based on the first of a trilogy of books by Gregory Maguire called Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Most of you would have watched or read The Wizard of Oz at some point in your childhood. It’s a good movie but ultimately suffers from being based on a children’s book – it’s all black and white, good versus evil.

wicked book

As you grow older, such concepts are foreign, nay, an insult to your intelligence, in a world you know has no such absolutes. It’s all shades of gray and Wicked will appeal to the older audience. The book and the musical adaptation has quite a few differences though – the book is darker and Dorothy does not make an appearance in the written word.

wicked glinda

However, I love the musical coz it weaves everything together and portrays Elphaba (the name of the Wicked Witch of the West) as a revolutionary who fights for the rights of Animals. She is ultimately a very misunderstood character and you can’t help but feel sorry for her.

wicked ticket

I managed to get reasonably good seats for 62.50 pounds (about RM 300) – it’s the very front row in the middle of the Dress Circle. I was impressed by the props on stage as well – the animatronic bird (?) hovering over the stage like a large pterodactyl that comes alive when the Wizard of Oz makes his speeches is awe inspiring!

apollo victoria wicked

The orchestra playing in front of the stage is so good that I went and bought the CD + program for 20 pounds. Wicked the Musical is probably best known for the song “Defying Gravity” which also appeared in an episode of Glee (the one with the wheelchairs in Season One).

wicked program cd

I won’t spoil the story for you but basically the musical is about Glinda (The Good Witch of the South), Elphaba (The Wicked Witch of the West) and Nessa (The Wicked Witch of the East) during their days in school.

orchestra

The witches weren’t known as such then (Glinda is such a selfish airhead) and the incredibly sad and touching series of events which culminated in the death of Nessa (damn Madame Morrible) and the vilification of poor Elphaba will bring a tear to even the most stone hearted man. >.<

elphaba

The production runs for about 3 hours, including an intermission between Act I and Act II and I cannot recommend it strongly enough for those with an interest in theatre (and even those without). If you only watch one musical in your lifetime, let it be Wicked. I got so angry at Galinda and felt so sorry for Elphaba even though it’s just great acting.

I can relate so much to Elphaba. T_T

No one mourns the wicked. :(

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