Yesterday I was extremely lucky to be invited along as a blogger to the media call for the latest musical to hit Melbourne, Strictly Ballroom The Musical. I had to keep pinching myself that I was actually there. Let's just say I was blown away. This is the gorgeous 'Her Majesty's Theatre'.
This photo here is of Baz Luhrmann giving the cast directions. Baz Luhrmann! I was in the same theatre as Baz Luhrmann, highly acclaimed director of the movies 'Strictly Ballroom' (1992), 'Romeo & Juliet' (1996), 'Moulin Rouge' (2001), 'Australia' (2008) and 'The Great Gatsby' (2013). I was a wee bit star struck!
It was also lovely to meet his wife, Catherine Martin, who has worked with Baz as a designer on all his productions. She was also the set and costume designer for this production.
It was fascinating listening to Baz speaking in between the three musical numbers that the cast performed, which they did twice over each, to give the media a chance to get the best photos and film footage.
The first number they performed was 'The Samba'.
The costumes are incredible. The dancing is amazing. The singing is sublime. The cast is brilliant.
The second number they did was 'Time After Time', performed by lead characters 'Scott' and 'Fran', played by Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos, along with other members of the cast. They have such a lovely connection and wonderful voices.
The whole cast lined up for, what Baz Luhrmann called, a 'family photo'. Having been in amateur stage productions myself I understood what he meant. When you work so closely with a group of people for such a long time they do become just like 'family'.
The final number they performed for us was called 'A Life Lived in Fear'. This was my absolute favourite. I stirring number of flamenco dancing, it truly awakened the soul. Fernando Mira who plays 'Rico' was outstanding.
For those who have not seen the film the story focuses on Scott Hastings, a ballroom dancer from a small town with a big future who has his heart set on winning the Pan-Pacific Gran Prix Ballroom Championships, except he wants to dance steps that are not 'strictly ballroom'. Through a series of mishaps he eventually finds himself partnered with Fran, a beginner who only wants to be given a chance, whose own story is one of 'the ugly duckling turning into a swan'. When she teaches him steps of the pasodoble (a Spanish dance), he is intrigued, and her family show him the way to 'listen to the rhythm' and truly dance the steps from the heart. Romance blossoms, although typically the road is rocky. With Scott's parents having skeletons in their own 'ballroom closet' and the president of the Australian Dancing Federation, Barry Fife, aiming to rig the the competition so Scott does not win, there is plenty in the couple's way to success. In the end the competition is stalled as the music is switched off, but from what starts as a single person clapping, the crowd joins in to encourage Scott and Fran to 'dance from the heart' and dance their own way.
As a writer and photographer for a Gippsland magazine it was also exciting to see the 'real' journalists at work!
Afterwards a small group of lucky bloggers (me included!!), got to go backstage and have a squiz! The stage of Her Majesty's Theatre is a lot smaller than you would think. So is the area backstage, which makes you wonder how the cast, with all their costume changes and elaborate wigs manage to fit. In the photo above a stage hand was explaining the revolving stage floor and telling us that the many sparkly curtains hanging around us cost $1000 a metre for the fabric. There was A LOT of sparkly fabric.
This is the wall directly behind the stage where many past actors from shows long gone have signed their names!
There were lots of wigs!
And amazing costumes....
I even got to meet Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos, who are brilliant as 'Scott' and 'Fran'. Which made me realise just how stupidly short I really am!
I managed to get a bit of video footage which I have put together for you and included below.
A big thank you to Nuffnang, who organised for the bloggers to be here at this event, as well as Amanda Borrett, the Marketing Manager from Global Creatures, who looked after us on the day. I could not recommend this production enough. From what I have seen it is amazing and I hope that I get to see the whole performance at some stage.