Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Review of show touring Birmingham, London and Manchester
Here we are in the middle of bleak winter. It's cold and dark with the threat of snow looming. So what could be the perfect antidote to that gloomy darkness than the razzle dazzle of the sparkling Strictly Come Dancing roadshow?
A new judging line-up for the Strictly Come Dancing UK tour
Bringing a trail of glitter into the audience's lives for one night were stars from the show including this year's winner Caroline Flack and a new line-up of judges, all under the masterful and friendly stewardship of Zoe Ball.
The Strictly Come Dancing Live tour opened at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham on January 16, where it was staying for three nights before continuing to cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and London.
Former winner Tom Chambers and the professional dancer he won with, Camilla Dallerup, joined Craig Revel Horwood to give their verdict on the contestants, but only as guidance as it's up to the audience's texts to decide the winner each night.
Seven couples are taking part - Caroline Flack dancing with Tristan MacManus (as her TV dance partner Pasha Kovalev can't make the tour); Thom Evans with Iveta Lukosiute; Mark Wright with Karen Hauer; Alison Hammond with Aljaž Skorjanec; Simon Webbe with Kristina Rihanoff; Scott Mills with Joanne Clifton and a last minute replacement of S Club 7's Rachel Stevens with Kevin Clifton.
Rachel Stevens, who danced with Vincent Simone on the TV show, stepped in at the last minute to perform in the tour in Birmingham
Rachel was drafted in a week before the tour started as Frankie Bridge from The Saturdays had to pull out on doctors' orders as she is pregnant with her second child, but has a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which can effect the early months of pregnancy.
It's a packed night of entertainment following the same format as the television programme with each couple performing two dances, often their most popular from the series, accompanied live by an impressive group of singers and orchestra.
Scott Mills is hugely entertaining with his two left feet and doesn't disappoint the crowd by performing his crab dance. Meanwhile, Caroline Flack thrills with her Istanbul finale routine and Alison Hammond's infectious personality wins over the crowd.
But it's Simon Webbe who impressed the most with a sizzling Argentinian tango with Kristina Rihanoff that left a lump in the throat and looked even more impressive than when first performed. It was no wonder that he won the crowd's vote to pick up the glitterball on the opening night of the tour.
Scott Mills and his partner Joanne Clifton are among the popular couples taking part in the show
The real razzle dazzle, however, comes from the set pieces featuring the whole cast. The judges and former contestant Zoe Ball (wearing a dress that was as shimmery as a glitter ball) even get to join in for the opening and closing numbers that include No Business Like Showbusiness.
There's also a beautifully dreamy performance to the song Let It Go from film Frozen.
The only drawback is that the tour is deeply missing the fun of judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli - or "the mad Italian" as Craig Revel Horwood called him. Camilla Dallerup and Tom Chambers don't have the pantomime personalities to stir up the crowd in the same way and the show seemed to lack something of the zest of previous years'.
If two of the the regular judges had appeared in the tour it wouldn't have been so noticeable, but with only the familiar antics of Craig Revel Horwood, it seemed a step too far.
The Strictly glitterball was firmly on show at the opening of the tour in Birmingham
It was useful to have Camilla and Tom to hand though as they took a turn on the dancefloor while the votes were being counted to perform their winning showdance of If My Friends Could See Me Now, which still thrills and shows why Tom went on to headline West End productions like Top Hat.
All in all, it's a fun show with dazzling costumes and a multitude of glitterballs that gives fans the chance to see live the dance performances they voted on through the series, as well as get up close to their favourites.
However, as enjoyable as it is, with some of the judges missing, it lacked some of the sparkle seen in previous years.
Jan 16-18: Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
Jan 20 - 21: Capital FM Arena, Nottingham;
Jan 22 – 23: First Direct Arena, Leeds;
Jan 24 – 25: Manchester Arena;
Jan 27: Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield;
Jan 28 – 29: Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle;
Jan 30 – Feb 1: SSE Hydro, Glasgow;
Feb 3 – 4: Echo Arena, Liverpool;
Feb 5 – 6: SSE Arena, Wembley, London;
Feb 7 – 8: The O2, London.