Strictly Come Dancing Live – Review – Leeds Arena
By Richard Jones, January 2018
Twelve months ago, our seven-year-old daughter Evelyn was seriously ill in Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Thankfully, she pulled through, but while we counted our blessings that she was okay, our daughter was devastated. It had just dawned on her that during her ‘magic sleep’ she had missed something she had been looking forward to for ages – the Strictly Come Dancing Live show.
Evelyn is a massive Strictly fan, you see, and ever since that disappointment, she has pestered my wife Rachel and I to take her along to the 2018 edition. Her obsession with all things Glitterball was only fuelled further by the most recent series (its most popular yet, ratings-wise) which ended on BBC One just before Christmas.
Like most Strictly fans, Evelyn has her favourite contestant – Debbie McGee – but when the former magician’s assistant and her partner Giovanni Pernice were beaten to the crown by Joe McFadden and Katya Jones in December’s final, my daughter assumed she had seen the last of her dancing heroine.
However, thanks to the 2018 Strictly Live Tour, Evelyn, along with our other daughter Isla, 10, got to see Debbie tripping the light fantastic once again – only this time, in the flesh.
“Glitz and glamour”
Strictly’s annual roadshows are a perfect tonic to ease those winter blues, and this date at Leeds First Direct Arena was no different. Once again the whole 30-day extravaganza is directed by long running judge Craig Revel Horwood. Often painted as the show’s pantomime villain, Revel Horwood is the brains behind the well-oiled Strictly machine these days and the production is a perfect mix of glitz, glamour, comedy and dancing talent.
“I have lots of new surprises up my sleeve – it’s going to be bigger and better than ever before,” he said beforehand. “This tour will be just FAB-U-LOUS!”
Craig is joined on the judging panel by the man of a thousand innuendos Bruno Tonioli and Darcey Bussell, fresh from becoming a a Dame and making her first appearance on the live tour. To round off the sparkling line-up, it is hosted by 2016 Strictly champion Ore Oduba.
“Winning Strictly was the most unforgettable experience and a dream come true,” he admitted. “I’m so thrilled that I get to keep that dream alive and take part in the Strictly live tour once again, this time as host. This show and its fans will always hold a special place in my heart so I can’t wait to travel the UK again and meet the fantastic audiences that make Strictly the phenomenon we know and love.”
The couples who donned their dancing shoes and sequins alongside Debbie and Giovanni and Joe and Katya, are Gemma Atkinson and Aljaž Skorjanec, Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez, Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton, Davood Ghadami and Nadiya Bychkova, Jonnie Peacock and Oti Mabuse.
There are also group numbers featuring the professional dancers, while the soundtrack is performed by the wonderfully talented Strictly singers and live band.
As usual, the couples reprised their favourite routines from the series. Joe and Katya delivered a dark and daring Argentine tango to Rag n’ Bone Man’s ‘Human’ that even inspired Oduba and Revel Horwood to have a go themselves, as well as a Charleston to ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ by Ella Fitzgerald.
Alexandra and Gorka Marquez blasted through a jive to Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ and a quickstep to ‘The Gold Diggers’ Song’.
Davood and Nadiya Bychkova performed a paso doble to ‘Live and Let Die’ and a Charleston to ‘The Lambeth Walk’, while Gemma and Aljaž showcased their American smooth to ‘Downtown’, before a fierce paso doble to Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’.
Jonnie and Oti Mabuse lit up the stage with their jive to ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and then got steamy with an American Smooth to ‘Cry Me a River’. The comedic light relief provided last year by Ed Balls, came courtesy of popular duo Susan and Kevin. They performed a playful Morecambe and Wise-inspired quickstep to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ and a memorable samba to the Wonder Woman theme tune.
Finally, Evelyn’s favourite, Debbie (who turns 60 this year), stunned everyone again with her flying lifts and age-defying flexibility during a Cats-themed American smooth to ‘Memory’ and a salsa to ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.
During the show we got the chance to vote for our favourite dancers. Sadly for Evelyn, Debbie didn’t win this time (Gemma triumphed in front of her Emmerdale co-stars in the crowd). However, our daughters still went home with massive smiles on their faces and Evelyn’s long-awaited treat certainly made up for last year’s disappointment.
She’s already counting down the days until series 15 begins in the autumn, and this sparkling live extravaganza got a perfect ’10’ from all concerned.
images: Ray Burmiston