It’s perhaps a clue to the success of a musical when the most notable thing about it is that it came after a big hit: Ballroom is one such show. Opening three years after original director and choreographer Micheal Bennett’s hit ‘Chorus Line’ in 1978, the show is similarly dance focused, but it’s there that the similarities end.
‘Ballroom’ has a book by Jerome Kass, music by Billy Goldenberg and lyrics Alan & Marilyn Bergman and centres on the story of ‘Bea Asher’, a lonely widower who owns her own junk shop and is convinced by her friend Angie to ditch a night in front of the TV for an evening at her own favourite haunt: The Stardust Ballroom!
What follows is a pretty typical story of personal rediscovery and growth, all framed by the daily comings, goings and gossip of the ’Stardust’ patrons, all of whom are fifty plus. Whilst it’s refreshing to see a stage filled with more mature performers, the ensemble of ballroom dancers add very little to the show other than the mild diversion of a few rather tame dance routines.
That’s the problem with this piece: it could essentially be a one woman show as it only really concerns itself with ‘Bea’s’ story arc – everything else is just dressing really.
Performances are generally good, with Jessica Martin personable and pleasant as ‘Bea’, Cory Peterson charming as post man ‘Al’ and Natalie Moore-Williams a lot of fun as the lively best friend, ‘Angie’.
Whilst the ensemble add an element of fun to the proceedings, several of the performances are rather too large for this 100 seat studio space. The band, however, were perfectly balanced with the cast and did a great job with Goldenberg’s score.
This Waterloo East Theatre production actually represents the European Premiere of this piece: I’m afraid it’s not hard to understand why no one did it before – the material just isn’t very good.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Photo: Robert Piwko