January 18, 2015

A life lived in fear is a life half lived

One of my favourite movies as a child was Strictly Ballroom. It came out when I was about six or seven, just when I was starting to become interested in dancing. My mum was a dancer when she was a kid, and into her teenage years, so it was soimething she was keen for me to do as well. The film made me fall absolutely in love with the idea of ballroom dancing - the glitz, the (faux) glamour, the whole deal. Unfortunately, ballroom classes for six-year-olds in the suburbs of Melbourne were pretty much non-existent. I had to settle for ballet, jazz, and tap dancing. Which were fine, I enjoyed them, but what I really wanted to do was dance with a partner.

So when I found out Strictly Ballroom was being reimagined as a full-blown musical, I was beside myself. I had to go, no matter what. So imagine my surprise when I was invited this past Thursday to a short preview of some of the numbers, as well as the oppurtunity to interview the cast and Baz Luhrmann himself! I jumped at the chance, and entered Her Majesty's Theatre that morning with my heart thumping. I couldn't believe it.

On entering the theatre itself and trying to figure out where to sit, I was a bit overexcited and ended up sitting in the second row - because really, when will I ever have the chance to be that close ever again? It paid off, as I got to see a lot more detail than I would have from the "cheap seats". The costumes and sets are both glorious - a real credit to four-time Oscar winner Catherine Martin, who has worked with Baz (her husband) on all of his films and shaped a lot of the style his films have become famous for. You really feel as though you're right there in the dance studio, the patio of Fran's house, the Pan Pacifics final...

My camera sucks, so I ended up using my phone to take photos.

I must admit that at one point my stream-of-conciousness notes devolved into "OMG BAZ LUHRMANN IS SITTING LIKE RIGHT THERE OMG I AM NOT WORTHY"... But I got better. The man himself seems to be a wonderful person to work with, and the banter between him and his cast shows the obvious bond they have. From Baz "vamping" while the techies got some things set up, to him joking with the cast that they'd have to perform a physically demanding number five more times for us (with "no holding back"), there was a lot of levity around. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

They're so cute and silly together.

The first previewed number went by so quickly, I didn't manage to take any photos or notes during it. So sadly I don't have much to report about that one specifically. It was very flashy, very camp, and everything I could have hoped for the beginning of the show. It was a wonderful way to sweep us up into the Ballroom world.

The second number we were shown was Time After Time, one of my favourite parts of the film. I was glad they ran it through twice, as during the first run-through I couldn't tear my eyes away from the leads. Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos are so perfect in their roles as Scott and Fran that I actually started tearing up. It was wonderful.

After some more banter and a short Q-and-A with Baz, we were again swept up and carried away into A Life Lived In Fear, the scene in which Fran's family show Scott how to take the passion of the dance and translate it into his life. I was once again almost unable to take my eyes away from the stage as I watched.

Typically when I'm watching people dance, my eyes tend to be drawn towards the women as I find them more visually interesting, This scene, for me, was all about the strength of the men. So much so that I didn't even notice most of the women on the stage were dancing as well until the second run-through. That's not to say they weren't interesting - they were amazing - but the raw power flowing through the men was captivating.
I didn't get any decent photos of this part, so here's a production photo from the official website. I think credit for this goes to Jeff Busby but I'm not sure. Most of the other production photos have been credited to him and this one is has "JB" in the filename...

On the whole, I can't wait to see the full show as soon as I can. I would highly recommend anyone in Melbourne while it's in town go see it - even if I end up in the "cheap seats" I'll be happy.

Because even the seats are gorgeous.

Strictly Ballroom opened on January 17th at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne.

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