Global Creatures (the creative producers behind the King Kong stage extravaganza and Walking With Dinosaurs) have teamed with Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin to bring ’90s dance dramedy Strictly Ballroom to the stage in a big-budget musical. Original creative talent including screenwriter Craig Pearce and choreographer John O'Connell signed on, and the roles of Scott and Fran (played by Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice in the 1992 film) are played by Thomas Lacey and newcomer Phoebe Panaretos (20 and 23 years old, respectively).
Strictly Ballroom started its life on stage, as a student production at NIDA in 1984. Luhrmann drew heavily from his childhood experiences as a competitive ballroom dancer, but says that the film's message about freedom and following your dreams was a reaction against the Cold War. "In those days the show had more Brechtian stuff – Ronald Reagan doing Semper Fi, stuff like that," says Luhrmann, now 50.
In 1986 the production toured to a student drama festival in Czechoslavakia, where Luhrmann recalls it made a big impression on the students from communist Bulgaria.
In 1988 Strictly Ballroom debuted at Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf theatre, secured a film deal, and by 1990 it had started filming – but as Luhrmann recalls, the original distributor, after watching the finished product, said it was the worst film he'd ever seen. It was only after legendary film critic and programmer Pierre Rissient programmed the film at Cannes – for just one screening – that the film took off, and ultimately became a huge domestic and international success.
In bringing it to the stage, Luhrmann says he will be aiming to break new ground theatrically and do more than just recreate the film – "[otherwise] why would you bother?"
Read our review of the show...
Time Out talks to Strictly's young stars – Phoebe Panaretos and Thomas Lacey – about the gruelling audition process and working with Baz.
30 years after Baz Luhrmann's film spun onto our dancefloor, an in-depth exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum unpacks the film's dazzling design.