Strictly Confidential

Lowry Theatre

SPOTTING a lone male in the audience of a ballroom dancing show is perhaps something of an incongruous sight.

Even more so when the performance is as glitzy, extravagant and downright camp as Strictly Confidential – a stage spin-off of the BBC’s hugely successful Strictly Come Dancing series.

Flexing my journalistic initiative I assumed the solitary gentleman in question, who happened to be sat next to me, was from another newspaper.

“Are you reviewing the show too?” I whispered conspiratorially. “Lisa Riley’s from Bury you know.”

In fact my viewing companion knew more of 36-year-old Lisa’s Bury connection than most — the gent was the actress’s dad, watching the show for the first time.

And with his daughter by far the most charismatic and well-received cog in this particular theatrical machine, Mr Riley certainly had a great deal to be proud of.

Strictly Confidential, the brainchild of the television programme’s notoriously nasty judge Craig Revel Horwood, has a variety show feel.

High-energy numbers by the three professional dancers made famous by the series, Artem Chigvintsev, Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite, are interspersed with comic set-pieces, character-acted scenes and audience participation sections which see Lisa in a presenter’s role.

Some moments were great, with the dynamic live band providing rollicking tunes to which the pros showcased their outstanding talent with vigour.

As a Strictly newcomer I was astounded at the seemingly impossible ways in which they moved their bodies, performing stunning renditions of everything from the Viennese waltz to the rumba with quick-footed Lisa holding her own at their side.

And fans looking for insights into the actress will not be disappointed, with the show covering her body confidence journey, her time as Mandy Dingle on Emmerdale and her mother’s tragic early death last year.

But sadly, something just didn’t quite gel.

The potted biography instalments from the professionals felt flat and over-rehearsed – perhaps a hazard of trying to make dancers act? – and served only to unnecessarily interrupt the show’s momentum.

Several bizarre set pieces failed to raise laughs, and verging on the downright hammy they seemed completely incompatible with the more poignant moments of the production.

And with the cast flitting between playing pastiches of themselves and adopting various character roles, I was at points deeply confused as to what was actually going on.

Don’t get me wrong, fans of Lisa will love this production as The Lowry theatre did – awarding her the biggest cheers of the night and a standing ovation.

But sadly Mr Horwood, it’s a five from me.

Tui Benjamin