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Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2018 - Review

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Could this be the happiest show in the world?
In the dark, bleak midwinter, the glittering nature of Strictly Come Dancing is a shining ray of happiness in this, its 11th year on the road.

Strictly come dancing live, review, tour,
Keep dancing with the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour

Contestant Susan Calman was quick to bestow the virtues of Strictly after her turn on the dance floor, declaring it the "happiest show in the world" while the lovely Debbie McGee likened it to drinking two bottles of champagne a day.

But you soon realise that they have a point, as the extravagant yet formulaic show does sprinkle a heavy shower of joy and sparkle through a series of group showdances and standout performances from the last series.

Opening the UK tour at Arena Birmingham in January, the show is visiting cities including Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle. The tour closes with performances in London, at SSE Arena Wembley on February 8-9, and the O2 Arena on February 10-11. So here's what you can expect.

Strictly come dancing live tour, dancers, London, review
All the cast of Strictly Come Dancing Live backstage. Photo Neil Jones

Strictly Come Dancing Live immediately transports the audience to glamorous sunnier climes with golden palm trees shimmering below many, many glitterballs. You can tell Craig Revel Horwood has had a hand in the stylish decor as director of this hugely popular vehicle for the BBC1 dance contest.

Spray tanned to perfection, the professional dancers kick off the show. There's nearly all of the TV regulars including Gorka, Giovanni, Aljaz and Jeanette but Karen Clifton is notably absent.

They open with a scintillating 15 minute dance to suit all ages, moving from 1930's Fred and Ginger glamour to a high energy chart hit routine. They dazzle with an array of big smiles, long limbs and tiny sparkling costumes.

Taking on the hosting responsibilities this year is previous winner Ore Oduba, who is slick from his experience as a BBC sport presenter. He's refreshingly more edgy than previous presenters with a naughty streak, although his voice is sometimes a little on the quiet side.

His real forte is a dry sense of humour that gives him a camaraderie with the judges in particular - Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Dame Darcey Bussell, on her first Strictly tour.

They make a good strong judging team. Darcey good cop to Craig's bad, while Bruno is just gloriously crazy. This year, there is the added fun of a brief audience dance session with the judges too.

Strictly come dancing, review, tour,
Susan Calman with Kevin Clifton. Photo Roy Baron.

Over around two and a bit hours, each celebrity dancer performs two of their best routines from the series, with the audience then deciding by text vote who will lift the glitterball at that show.

The standard of the seven celebrity dancers in this latest tour seems unusually high compared to previous years, which makes for an exciting competition.

Alexandra Burke shows precision and effortless energy, especially through her Tina Turner jive with Gorka. While Susan Calman is even more likeable and funny live and goes for broke, and comedy, with her routines to 'Bring Me Sunshine' and Wonder Woman.

Davood Ghadami makes for a sensuous James Bond to 'Live and Let Die' in a sexy paso doble with Nadiya. His Lambeth Walk Charleston is also a crowd-pleaser. Then there is likeable Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz charming the audience with a classy American Smooth to 'Downtown' before a paso doble to Coldplay's 'Viva la Vida'. Aljaz joked how he felt like a rock star dancing to his favourite band until he looked down and realised he was wearing a bright pink frilly shirt.

Jonnie Peacock is probably the most impressive, dancing both with his blade and an artificial leg. Seeing him frantically jive to 'Johnny Be Good 'is inspiring, while he has a sultry edge for a stunningly sexy 'Cry Me A River' routine with Oti.

Strictly tour, review , Debbie McGee
Debbie McGee with Giovanni. Photo Roy Baron

Debbie McGee is as good as expected, in fact more so, and her chemistry with Giovanni exuberates through the arena. Their first dance is an American Smooth to Memory from the musical cats and it's hard to tell which of them isn't the professional.

They follow that up in the Second Act with their fun salsa to 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You', set in an opticians. Hearing Giovanni spell out Debbie's name before flinging her around insanely brings a wide smile to the face.

The final celebrity dances are saved for this season's winner Joe McFadden whose Ragtime Charleston from the final is a delight. It's pale in comparison to his second dance with Katya of the Argentine Tango with that gravity-defying lift. Something that Ore then tries with judge Craig. Absolutely hilarious, as well as strangely saucy.

As if all that wasn't breathtaking enough, there's a chance for all the professionals, Strictly singers and band to shine through set pieces. There's a Sweet Charity medley before the interval and the Run Boy Run Roman prisoner routine from Week Four of the last series.

All that's left is to crown the winner of the show and finish off with a La La Land influenced routine that sees the judges strut their stuff.

This Strictly Come Dancing Live tour is fun, uplifting and will definitely leave you overflowing with happiness. Maybe this really is the happiest show in the world.


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Why? Keep dancing with Strictly Come Dancing live tour
When: Touring until February
Phone: 0203 481 55 03
Where: O2 Arena and SSE Wembley Arena
Cost: From 35
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