BWW Review: STRICTLY COME DANCING LIVE TOUR, Wembley Arena
The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour does exactly what it says on the tin. If you love the Saturday night TV show, you're sure to love the live experience too.
Strictly Live has been touring the country's most cavernous entertainment venues since mid January, and culminates this weekend in London's premiere arenas, first visiting Wembley, then the O2.
It's a chance to see live some of the best pro-celeb partnerships from the most recent TV series: Gemma and Aljaz, Alexandra and Gorka, Susan and Kevin, Davood and Nadiya, Debbie and Giovanni, Jonnie and Oti, and Series 15 winners Joe and Katya.
After a slightly peculiar 'red carpet' mingling session, where host and 2016 Strictly winner Ore Oduba greets the dancers, the format sticks closely to the TV show (if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?).
There are spectacular group numbers - including a second half opener with some quite extraordinary silver-sequinned trousers on display.
Each couple also performs two of their best dances from the series. There's something for everyone, from Alexandra and Gorka's blistering "Proud Mary" jive to Joe and Katya's moody Argentine tango with that lift, via American Smooths, Paso Dobles, Charlestons, Quicksteps and more.
The judges - Craig Revel Horwood (who also directs), Darcey Bussell and Bruno Tonioli - provide what appear to be fairly scripted, but entertaining enough comments and scores, and the audience applauds, cheers and boos appropriately.
There's then a chance to vote via text (a slightly cheeky 25p a pop, but with a portion going to charity), meaning that each night a different winner can emerge depending on the audience's proclivities.
My votes went to Gemma (what can I say? Aljaz is my cup of tea) and Susan, for the pure joy of her Morecambe and Wise-inspired Quickstep and Wonder Woman samba, but on the night it was The Lovely Debbie McGee™ who won over the crowd and raised the glitterball trophy.
The show's production values are pretty strong, and by several accounts improving year on year. There's a large raised stage, added 'backing' dancers for many of the routines, lighting that helps to keep your focus in right places amidst some busy routines, and of course a few chandeliers and glitterballs scattered around the place.
It's good to see the singers getting some time centre stage too, although they're apparently not namechecked on the tour website (hopefully they are in the programme, although I wasn't inclined to shell out the £12 to find out).
The band are perhaps a little hard done by, with only a couple of fairly fleeting mentions and sitting largely in the shadows between the trademark Strictly staircases.
The first night Wembley audience felt a little flat - as my Strictly-loving companion mused, since people are used to watching on TV, they perhaps don't realise that their enthusiasm needs to be a bit more vocal than when they're sitting on their sofa.
A quick bit of 'warm-up' action, as you get in the TV studio if you're ever lucky enough to get tickets, might have helped - or perhaps it was just a London/Thursday-night/post-schlep up to Wembley thing.
That aside, Strictly Live is great fun, and of course suitable for all the family. No doubt it'll continue to go from strength to strength the length and breadth of the UK for years to come.
Photo credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images