I was an ugly duckling. I’m not exactly a beautiful swan now but as awkward teenage years go, mine were pretty awks. With freckles, braces, an unflattering bob-cut, a penchant for PB (peanut butter) and an aversion to PE (Physical Education), it’s safe to say I wasn’t in the running for homecoming queen (or whatever the Aussie version of that is).
I had an enormous high school crush on a guy called Adam. When he was made my partner for “ballroom dancing” I was over the moon. Ballroom dancing was perhaps a bit of an overstatement. It was the end-of-year PE subject, chosen because the teachers could just wander round the back of the hall and sip Bundy out of hip-flasks (when in Queensland…) while the kids danced in circles to gems like The Heel and Toe Polka and Pride of Erin. But being held by Adam, particularly in the ‘closed dance hold,’ (hand on my waist oh my!) well, it made my fourteen year old heart flutter.
One night at a sleepover with my girlfriends, I discover two amazing things: s’mores (more on those later) and ‘Strictly Ballroom’. Hired for a few dance tips (and because we thought Paul Mercurio was pretty cute), it became the sequin-spangled escapist film that helped me survive my teen years and go on to become the
just as daggy but much more confident super cool creature you see before you.
Do I need to tell you what this story is about? When I posted photos from the media call on Instagram, buddies from all over the world became excited. ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is the ugly duckling fairytale set in a ballroom dance studio in the 80s. Dripping with that gorgeous Aussie sense of humour and not afraid to be as camp as a row of pink tents; it is vibrant, outrageous, hilarious and heartwarming. It was Baz Luhrmann’s first film and the film that unleashed the pizazz of Baz on the world at large.
The making of ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is a fairytale in itself. What started as a student stage-play while Luhrmann was studying at NIDA was picked up by a film company after a professional season a few years later. There were financial struggles; the tragic deaths of the executive producer and Pat Thomson, who played the role of Shirley Hastings; and plenty of doubters. However, in true David and Goliath fashion (another of the film’s themes), when the film debuted at Cannes it received a standing ovation and went on to become one of the most successful Australian films of all time. It also launched the careers of Luhrmann, Catherine Martin and many of the film’s previously little-known actors.
Last year ‘Strictly Ballroom The Musical‘ debuted in Sydney and now Melbourne has the chance to experience this Aussie success story. I was delighted to attend the media call a few weeks ago (hence the photos) and was thrilled to be invited to see the show.
But how well did the film I adore translate to the stage?
Baz Luhrmann is known for the glitz and glamour he brings to his productions, but one of his greatest skills as a storyteller is his ability to really take you into the souls of his characters. Nothing has been lost in the musical adaptation. In fact, putting this story back on stage, with the buzz of the audience feeding the energy, just feels right.
All your favourite songs and scenes are here plus some new fabulous collaborations with songwriters the likes of Sia and Eddie Perfect. Catherine Martin’s costumes are extraordinary (did you expect any different?), the set and technical design transformative, and the performances just so freaking beautiful, passionate, and at times, uproariously funny.
This musical is not afraid to poke fun at itself, the musical genre, or the world it inhabits. There are some great moments of audience involvement and I found myself getting swept up into the world of the Pan Pacific Grand Prix Amateur Five Dance Latin American Championships. However, at its core ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is about love; love for what you do, the importance of loving and believing in yourself and a heady dose of the romantic kind as well.
If you loved the film you will rejoice in the musical. If you’ve never seen the film but have ever felt small and longed for some magic in the world, then book some tickets now.
There is no easy segue into this, but you know, this here’s a food blog and s’mores and Strictly Ballroom will always be linked in my consciousness. I was destined to be a food blogger, all my pivotal memories are linked to what I was eating at the time. So here is that slightly modified take on the food revelation of that night.
Back in the 90s there was a lot less American influence on Australian society. I had never heard of s’mores until my friend produced biscuits, marshmallows and chocolate from her backpack and microwaved up batches of sweet, gooey heaven. Even then I think we called them something less eloquent like ‘marshmallow and chocolate melts’
Being all grown up now, I like to make my s’mores under the grill with some good quality dark chocolate (preferably with sea salt) to cut through the sweetness.
Lindt have made their squares of chocolate perfectly s’more sized. Coincidence? I think not 🙂
- 1 packet shredded wheatmeal or digestives
- 1 packet marshmallows
- 1 block Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt
- Cut marshmallows into quarters and place on underside of half the biscuits.
- Gently toast marshmallows under grill until lightly brown.
- Immediately place 1 square of Lindt chocolate on top of each biscuit, may need to put back under the grill for a few seconds to melt the chocolate.
- Place a second biscuit on top.
- Make happy noises as the melted chocolate drips down your chin 🙂
- Cutting the marshmallows is very important if using a grill (as opposed to a campfire) because the powdered sugar can prevent the marshmallows from oozing everywhere. Ooze is important.
Disclosure: I attended ‘Strictly Ballroom The Musical’ as a guest of Nuffnang. All opinions and images are my own.
Well, generally speaking I dislike too much American culture in Australia but s’mores I can get behind. I had an American friend from school once who couldn’t believe we didn’t have graham crackers in Australia (I think that’s what they use for s’mores).
And Strictly Ballroom, what a blast from the past 🙂 The musical looks fun.
I just wrote a big response to this on Charlie’s comment but I understand where you are coming from. I think that in recent years Australia has really been swept up by so many US trends and it is really important to keep our own identity.
I think as long as we make s’mores with ‘biscuits’ and not ‘cookies’ we are doing ok 🙂
The musical is delightful. My mum is basically starting a petition to have it travel to Brisbane so you may well get your chance to see it.
Emma I’m certain that it’s an Australian thing and patriotism that “dislike[s] too much American culture in Australia” with the except of food – but not anything that comes in a can other than soda. 😛
We had a friend who recommended the movie a few years ago, the mother was hilarious I recall, but other than it wasn’t really my thing – but the costumes in this musical could be. 😉 I like something more intense, say a visit to a certain barber on Fleet St, London?
Haha, so true Charlie! We always make exceptions for food 😀
Ahh this is an interesting thing. I think that Australia sometimes lacks its own clear cultural identity (and foods) and so can get a little precious about adopting any other culture too strongly. There is a big trend towards American foods lately (because they are awesome) but we need to hang on to our Australianess too. Things like calling biscuits ‘cookies’ is part of it.
Also, with so little money spent on local drama and so much TV from the US I have noticed young kids will often pick up slightly American accents.
I adore both countries and like to borrow from America from time-to-time. 🙂
Re: the film, I think that it is one that Australians really cling to because of its Australianess. Having said that, there is a fabulous doco by one of the stars, Tara Morice, where she visits some US fans of the film. It was screened the night of the September 11 bombings in a community centre in the states somewhere and provided a gorgeous escape from the horror of that day. One elderly lady wrote to Tara and they developed a friendship. Such a lovely tale.
Beautiful photos! Ballroom dancing will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first bonding moment my mom and I had when I was a teen 🙂 This was her thing and she and my mom’s friend (they’re bestfriends) took the both of us to their fave ballroom place where my friend and I had our first legit cocktails! 🙂 Ahh, the memories!
What lovely memories. I like that you said ‘our first legit cocktail.’ 😉
Oh how good was this?!!!
Absolutely loved the show – some amazing spangly Luhrmann moments on the stage just took my breath away. Such an exciting thing to have experienced the media call (glad to have met you!). We want to see it again! (My Husband lost his wallet at the theatre and sadly, no-one handed it in which was a bit of a downer at the show’s end.)
Oh no! That is such a bugger about the wallet, what’s wrong with people 🙁
It was lovely to meet you too. Such a gorgeous, funny and fun show.
Love this review – I really like your anecdotes of school and ballroom dancing.
And I’m so glad you got to go to the media launch 🙂 Wasn’t it a fun show?!
Such a fun show! Lovely to see you there too.
The media launch was quite a treat 🙂
I’m keen to see it. I’ve got a friend in it so I love that I “have to” go and see this one. I’m glad to hear that this translated well to stage, it was a concern of mine. I think we all have a soft spot for this story and I looooved your little accompanying story at the start! Cute! x
This looks amazing! I love musicals! Growing up, my parents would always drive me to the big city once or twice a year to take in a musical. I still take voice lessons and musicals are one of my favorite genres to choose pieces from. Look out Broadway! I laughed about your bob. It reminded me of when my mom let my dad take my brother and I to get our hair cut and we both came back with matching bowl cuts haha I think my mom is still upset! Those s’mores look delicious. Reminds me of my childhood 🙂 Oh, and I’m totally incorporating the word “dag” into my daily conversations!
Dag is an excellent word 🙂
How good is that show? I love the movie and I loved the show just as much, we went to see it for my birthday and it was absolutely ah-mazing! Everything was fantastic from the dance moves, to the costumes, even the way the theatre was decorated, it was all spot on. I think I loved it so, because it was so close to the film, such a great night out. Especially if you could go home and faceplant some s’mores. For me, all the Aussie classics are feel good movies, I’m also a big fan of Muriel’s wedding and Priscilla, and the soundtracks are just stupendous!
Yes indeed. As I get older I am really embracing these films as feeling just so perfectly Australian- epitomising our humour and quirky oddness.
Please tell me you have seen ‘The Castle’ too?
Wow. I’ve always rejected the idea of the S’more as too sweet. But you’ve just revolutionised my view with the addition of sea salt. Hmmm. Food for thought. Or just food? x
Sea salt and dark chocolate are your friends, my friend. And a nice simple, not too sweet biscuit. I love them with oatcakes but haven’t been able to find a supplier in Melbourne.
I’ve never ever ever got my chops around a S’more. Maybe I’ve been missing out…
I am, however, quite the connoisseur of Strictly Ballroom and I’m SO glad the stage show lived up to the bodaciousness of the film. Now show me the pogo pogo and hand me a s’more.
I think perhaps you are missing out, give the s’more a go soon. Digestives are your go-to biscuit- I have seen them made with chocolate digestives too….mmmm, double chocolate.
I am so thrilled that so many of you UKers know Strictly Ballroom.
Can you believe I’ve never eaten or made s’mores! I think I’ve missed out! Xx
Definitely! You need to get on it ASAP 🙂
Hahaha I wonder if Lindt did that on purpose? I LOVE a good Smores!! Oh I am so jealous! I really want to see Strictly Ballroom! Thanks for linking up with our Fabulous Foodie Fridays party!
You know, I thought the same thing about the Lindt when it occurred to me how perfect the squares are for s’more making. You would love Strictly Ballroom, I think they have just released more tickets…
I have something to admit … I have never had smores. :/ But Strictly Ballroom – yes! Must rectify this, stat.
What?! Oh you will love them – or hate them, depending on how you feel about THAT much sugary sweetness. Definitely go with some sea salt 🙂
They look delicious!
Thanks Dianne. I munched through quite a few of them #gluttony 🙂