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 fortunate and excited to experience it in a whole new way. This much beloved film has been turned into a brand new 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 that is 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 where it received a 15-minute standing ovation and became 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 was fortunate enough to attend the media call and get a sneak peek at the show. I got to see a few numbers performed and to spend a little time up close with Luhrmann and Martin and some of the stars of the show. I also got a backstage tour. All the photos that follow are mine.
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.