Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour
Saucy comments, a passable pasodoble and Anne Widdecombe: there's only one word to describe the Strictly Live show - fab-u-lous!
At the first of three sold-out Belfast shows in the Odyssey Arena, the dimming of the lights and the familiar theme music comes as a blessed relief after half an hour of an irritating warm-up man (imagine Dermot O’Leary crossed with a Butlin’s camp comic).
A 26-date nationwide tour is probably too much for octogenarian regular host Bruce Forsyth, so Zoë Ball takes his place in this, the live arena version of Strictly Come Dancing. Brucie’s quips are missed, but Ball keeps things moving along nicely.
She is joined by three of the judges from the television series – the three funny, knowledgeable ones – who dispense their usual wisdom and witticisms. Sure, much of the banter seems scripted, but on a month-long tour with the same 16 dances to rate every night how could it not be?
Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood remain as entertaining as they are on the telly, milking their established personas – punning granddad, hyperactive clown and panto villain.
Considering the recent Sky Sports sexism row, full marks to Goodman for continuing to spout politically incorrect wisecracks. The old pro is as happy making saucy remarks about dancers’ dresses or his fellow judges’ nether regions as he is dishing out the nines and tens.
Horwood manages to squeeze in some constructive critiques amongst the pithy putdowns, while the excitable Tonioli mainly mucks about, gasping and waving his arms. For those of us who couldn’t tell a cha-cha from a Charleston, the trio supply enough silliness to keep the two hours ticking over.
As for the celebrities, they’re a likeable bunch. Ricky Whittle and dance pro James Jordan (Pamela Stephenson’s partner) attempt to woo the Belfast fans with claims of Ulster heritage, while Jimi Mistry performs a daftly enjoyable pasodoble to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, sporting a red cape and Gary Glitter sideburns. Mistry himself describes the turn as ‘Jedward gone wrong’, as if Jedward could ever go right.
Glamorous granny Stephenson and the technically adept Kara Tointon (winner of the 2010 season) wow the crowd, but Countryfile’s Matt Baker ultimately takes tonight’s trophy, appealing to the grandmother in us all (my text vote is 25p well spent).
But the most amusing part of the evening is the outrageous spectacle of special guest Ann Widdecombe being trailed around the floor by Horwood – who, lest we forget, once described Widdecombe as a ‘dancing hippo’ – to the sound of Cole Porter’s ‘Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love’.
Throw in some audience participation (at one point, a lady named Maeve hurtles onto the dance floor in a definitely unscripted moment), a routine by the Belvoir Dance Company and a mass celeb dance-off to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin', and Horwood isn’t far wrong when he describes Strictly Come Dancing Live as ‘one word, starting with f – fab-u-lous’.