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Will Strictly Ballroom prove a misstep for dancer Labey?

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A NEW musical starring Islander Jonny Labey as its male lead has opened in the West End – to disappointing reviews.

Although Jonny Labey’s dancing ability and the ‘redeeming adorability’ of his relationship with co-star Zizi Strallen (pictured) has been praised, the show has largely been panned by critics

The former Victoria College student plays Scott Hastings in the reimagining of Baz Luhrmann’s breakthrough film Strictly Ballroom, which opened this week at London’s Piccadilly Theatre.

And although Mr Labey is commended for his dancing and the ‘redeeming adorability’ of his relationship with co-star Zizi Strallen, the show itself ­– which also features singer Will Young as the host-narrator – has been largely panned by critics.

Directed by Olivier Award-winner Drew McOnie, Strictly Ballroom tells the story of dancer Scott as he tries to impose his unorthodox dance moves on the strict ballroom world and falls in love with ugly duckling Fran.

Writing in The Times, Dominic Maxwell describes the stage show as ‘cartoonish and a bit desperate’ while the Guardian calls it a ‘dancefloor disaster’ and the Telegraph describes it as a ‘garish, gurning theatrical spin-off’.

Dominic Cavendish, writing in the Telegraph, opens his review by saying: ‘Only those requiring minimal cerebral input will be enraptured by this bewilderingly vapid jukebox musical. It is almost so lacking in substance that it almost makes its predecessor at this theatre, Annie, look like the Ring Cycle by comparison.’

He later adds: ‘Despite the redeeming adorabiliy of central pair Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen – and much superb, slick, lithe choreography from Drew McOnie and the esemble – it feels relentlessly manufactured and cynically feelgood.’

The Stage calls it ‘dazzling but disappointing’ but praises Mr Labey’s dancing.

Its review says: ‘This new West End version, however, is slack where it should be tight – crucially in its comedy – and slick where it should be loose. It does a disservice to both of the film’s great strengths. The characters know that they and their world are grotesque, they play lines for laughs, and so suck the humour out of them. In trying so hard to be funny, the show comes across as cold and calculating instead.’

It adds: ‘Labey’s Scott is a bit smug, and so a bit unendearing – though he is a fabulous dancer.’

Time Out, however, gives the show four stars and reviewer Alice Saville concludes: ‘It’s halfway between a tribute to and a very, very silly send-up of a much-loved movie, whose cava-swilling fans will leave the theatre with a skip, slide and hop in their step.’

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