Simply Ballroom

CAROLINE CULOT Theatre Royal, Norwich


Theatre Royal, Norwich

It can only happen in Norwich that one week you go to the theatre and see the Ku Klux Klan doing a tap dance, and the next it's Lionel Blair.

Some might advocate protesting more about the latter, but last night saw no placard-bearing campaigners.

Last night's ballroom dance fest set itself up as cheesier than a dripping camembert.

Yes, the disco ball was twirling and we had a cabaret singer who looked like Heidi Klum. The false eyelashes were on, along with the St Tropez tan - and this was just the guys.

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When it began, I suddenly felt I was on a cruise for show-night and needed a pair of sunglasses to shade my eyes from the glare of all those fluorescent dresses and lippy - but how wrong could I be.

For a start, just like ballroom, Lionel Blair is back in vogue. He looks fantastic, gave us some incredible tapdancing and entertained us with a few jokes and variety show oldies like Me and My Shadow and the Soft Shoe Shuffle. He was great.

The show, choreographed by television's Strictly Come Dancing stars Anton du Beke and Erin Boag, indulges us in our renewed love of ballroom dancing with no element of competition. But while it brings back fond memories, it is ballroom reinvented. The girls are younger (the youngest being just 17), their dresses shorter and the dances sexier and more athletic. But this show cleverly mixes old and new, so appealing to all ages, and uses classical music such as Strauss along with Ricky Martin and Cyndi Lauper.

The result is an electrifying show with a fabulous tango routine from Danny Last and Jodie Binsteed who were the runners-up in Strictly Dance Fever last year.

Other heartstopping routines included the paso doble and my favourite, the rumba performed to Time after Time.

Lionel Blair himself at the end said these were the best dancers he had worked with and - wow - they were just incredible with the girls doing the splits and high kicks in the highest of stilettos just effortlessly.

The show really involves the audience, with a chance to learn to salsa in the aisles, and one lady even got to waltz on stage with Lionel.

And who could resist that?