With Strictly fans offered so many spin-off shows in the bleak cold months of the year, when withdrawal symptoms are at their most insufferable, it’s a rather nice surprise to be treated to a dose of sequins on a balmy night in July.
These sequins come in the form of Strictly Confidential, part dance showcase, part autobiographical-behind-the-scenes spectacular, devised by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood. The show is a little hard to categorise but mostly filled with audience-pleasing original concepts, with just the occasional overly scripted sequence.
Lisa Riley and all the accompanying dancers begin their autobiographical monologues, by announcing their names, dates of birth and backgrounds in the industry a la A Chorus Line. The interspersed “secrets” are not particularly secret for any hardcore Strictly fan. However, the dance interpretation of Lisa’s time on Emmerdale, complete with dancers dressed as sheep works well to include all of the audience – soap fan or not.
Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe (pictured below) are long, lithe and lovely as supporting cast, their natural connection making me yearn for Ian to be invited back for a full series of Strictly. They are both equally capable in ballroom and Latin adding a beauty, class and grace to the show that would otherwise have been a little lacking.
The From Russia with Love overture accompanies Artem anytime he walks moodily on stage, a touch that brings many to mild hysteria as the night wears on. With his only role seemingly to be accompanying Lisa with the occasional number, the first act left me feeling he had been a little underused. An observation perhaps that CRH made too, as the second act starts with the shirt being dramatically ripped from his back and staying that way for the remainder. Ladies of Wimbledon were quick to show their appreciation.
The second act goes a little too much down the route of “The West End audition of Lisa Riley” with the lead star belting out classics such as “All That Jazz” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, though she does so competently enough. However, Lisa’s entrance into the dance numbers is always left until last, as if it were some sort of climax, when, of course, she is the least experienced dancer – a little frustrating for dance fans.
One emotive moment stood out as particularly well staged by CRH and handled with appropriate care and grace. A contemporary piece danced by Natasha Mould (an ensemble dancer) to “My Daughter’s Eyes” works beautifully as a tribute to Lisa’s late mother.
For the final few bars Lisa dances some waltz steps facing stage right, her arm placed to the left ready for Artem to take it. However, the night I saw it, it was a casually clad Robin who unexpectedly did the honours. The shock on Lisa’s face telling the audience that this had been by far the most strictly confidential surprise of the evening.
First published on the Dance Today website and in Dance Today August 2013