Keep Dancing at The Playhouse Edinburgh bills itself as “The Ballroom Dancing Sensation”, and with television’s “Strictly Come Dancing” winners 2015 – Aliona Vilani and Jay McGuiness - taking centre place on the programme brochure and much of the advertising, then fans of the show’s expectations are probably very high. Does the show meet those high expectations? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
I have to admit to probably being one of the few people who have never watched Strictly Come Dancing, so I am judging this show as a stand alone theatrical show rather than an extension to any hit television programme, so I may be seeing things slightly differently than the many members of tonight’s audience who were obviously very familiar with the show.
In some areas the show does what it promises, lots of colour, costume and of course dancing, but for me the biggest drawback is the time that our two headline stars spend on stage. Apart from a little question and answer session, this time is restricted to one dance number in each half of the show, and even then, for some reason, despite Aliona’s obvious huge technical abilities as a dancer, and Jay’s obvious personal charm with an audience, the dance routines seemed rather cold at a personal level between them.
This show really belongs to two other “Strictly Dancers” – Robin Windsor and Anya Garnis, and they do a lot of dance work in this show between them. More importantly, they actually seem to be having fun, and Robin’s larger than life and very warm and friendly persona brings much needed life to this show.
The show itself is a mixture of staged sets around a dance style and some work very well, some just don’t seem to do so well. The opening disco set and the closing Gloria Estefan set work well, but the one that works by far the best for me, and the only one that seems to have any real story narrative running through it, is the very good wartime swing/jive & rock’n’roll set. When you are working with classics such as “In the Mood” from Glenn Miller and “Jump Jive an’ Wail” from Louis Prima plus some very talented dancers, nothing much can go wrong.
This was also a bit of a musical review show with three singers providing a huge range of singing styles –blues, jazz, swing, disco and latin amongst them, and like the dance sets, they sometimes hit the mark and on others missed it.
A bit of an odd mixture of a show, with some impressive highlights (not giving everything away in this review). I suspect, much of your response to this show will depend on whether you are a fan of the television show or not, and it is after all aimed firmly at that target audience, and I have to say that for the most, that audience were loving this show tonight, even if a few seemed a little disappointed by the on stage time of our 2015 winners.
Review by Tom King