Waterloo East Theatre, London – until 3 June 2017
When a musical makes its European debut nearly 40 years after its American debut you question the quality but in Ballroom, this tale of love after love, audiences are treated to a fun show with questionable morals and but ultimately lacking in musical or dramatic substance.
Our protagonist is Bea (Jessica Martin), a widow living a mundane existence running a junkyard shop with her sister-in-law. When friend Angie (Natalie Moore-Williams) suggests she goes to Stardust Ballroom to get back out there after her bereavement Bea is understandably reluctant but ultimately charmed by the idea and leads Bea into a journey of living a life she never thought she could find again; finding love and judgement from her loved ones in the process.
As a musical it is quite bland in places, despite its large cast there are only 4 characters that sing; Bea, her lover Al Rossi (Cory Peterson-who despite his advanced years had my companion and I swooning) and the two club singers Marlene and Nathan (Danielle Morris and Adam Anderson). Most of the numbers are songs that Bea and her friends dance to in the ballroom. Most of the songs are forgettable and the only number that stands out in these scenes is the disco ‘More of the Same’. Jessica Martin has a cracking Judy Garland-like voice but it is a real shame that characters like Angie and Al weren’t given more songs to explain their back stories or widowhood and marriage.
The lack of drama is also a problem; it is a nice story but the lack of conflict is an issue. Bea’s nosey family and the fact that her lover is married are brushed aside, Bea even sings Fifty Percent a song about how she gets to bang this gorgeous man without having to do all the boring wife stuff like ironing. As a feminist and person who dislikes ironing, I was conflicted by her laissez-faire attitude to his unseen wife.
Ultimately it is a fun show, Bea’s development feels fresh and relatable and her friends (all actors in their 50s/60s) provide some great laughs and some great dancing, even as a relatively young person it is time to grey-pound were acknowledged with a show they can relate to.
It is very frothy but the message is clear; it is never too late and you are never too old to have a bit of fun.