Panto season is still with us. The Strictly Come Dancing live tour is a re-enactment of the television series, with everybody playing themselves. The cheesy training videos, the judges’ comments and the audience votes are all there, with flashes of dancing amid the glitter.
Directed by Craig Revel Horwood, one of the show’s judges, this is a live show that still looks planned for television. There’s a huge dance floor in the centre of the arena, but most of the dancing happens on a much smaller raised platform.
Big screens show the dances in close-up; some routines look better on screen than they do in front of you. It’s wonderful when McFly drummer Harry Judd and his partner Aliona Vilani, winners of the last series, use the whole stage in a sparkling quickstep: the dancing really projects, speedy and exuberant.
Reality television tends to cast its performers in stereotype roles. Here, they’re stuck in their types, with no possibility of changing the script. Nancy Dell’Olio is the Wicked Queen, with everyone joking about her ego. She babbles on about herself, because that’s what’s expected, but it doesn’t have the sheer weirdness it had on telly: you don’t wonder if she means it.
Host Kate Thornton talks up the competition element, with each live performance producing its own winner. Yet there’s little sense of risk; nobody will be voted off a tour, and their roles are already set. The dancers don’t just recreate familiar routines, but other familiar moments; footballer Robbie Savage clearly “shocks” Revel Horwood by jumping onto the judge’s desk at every performance.
Thornton, judges and dancers try to whip up excitement for the contest, with big reactions to the judges’ entirely expected comments and the audience cheerfully applauding and booing on cue.
What does come through is the dancing. This lineup has the three finalists from last series – Judd, Jason Donovan and Chelsee Healey – plus Anita Dobson, Savage, Dell’Olio and swimmer Mark Foster.
Judd and Vilani dance a slick tango, with clean edges and flickering footwork. Jason Donovan is an earnest performer, but partners Kristina Rihanoff in another good tango. Healey and her partner Pasha Kovalev are a delight, bounding through their steps with bubbly energy. The group numbers, choreographed by Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite, have some bounce, with an appealingly giggly sequence for judges Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli.
Tour continues until 26 February. www.stritclycomedancinglive.com