Ballroom blitz has life of its own
BAZ Luhrmann says you never know who is going to be a Strictly Ballroom fan. ‘‘Forget that the Pope put it on his list of top five films,’’ The Great Gatsby director says. ‘‘I remember the first time I met Bill Clinton . . .’’ The former US President was in the middle of an argument when he turned to Luhrmann to say Moulin Rouge! was great, but when it came to Strictly Ballroom, he must have played it at least six times in The White House.
‘‘And he leaned right over, he said, ‘how about that mother? What a piece of work, huh?’ and then goes back to arguing with Richard Gere,’’ Luhrmann says.
Strictly Ballroom began life as a play Luhrmann created while studying at NIDA, inspired by the ballroom dancing he did during his childhood. After being made for the screen, he was told it was the worst movie one film distributor had ever seen.
Feeling ‘‘hurt, burnt and sad’’, Luhrmann went up the NSW coast to a caravan park. He was standing in the rain, mid hair-cut, with a bucket on his head to protect him from lethal falling coconuts, when he got a phone call inviting him to the Cannes Film Festival.
From there, the little Aussie film went on to achieve global success and introduced Australia and the world to Luhrmann.
He would go on to make Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, Australia and most recently, The Great Gatsby, before making the decision to return to his theatrical
Strictly Ballroom The Musical roots to stage a musical version of his beloved film. ‘‘Somehow the planets have aligned,’’ he says. Luhrmann said a lot of going ahead with the production came down to teaming up with Global Creatures, the brains behind the creatures of King Kong and Walking With Dinosaurs productions, in order to bring it to life.
‘‘None of the dancers will be real. The entire cast are puppets,’’ Luhrmann jokes.
But with new productions like King Kong raising the innovative bar, Luhrmann is promising something extraordinary.
‘‘If we are not actually breaking new theatrical ground with it, than at my age, why would you bother?’’ he says.
Luhrmann remained tight-lipped about casting, except that he had seen ‘‘the right kind of glimmer’’ recently. However he did reveal that Strictly Ballroom will be a show where the audience can get involved.
‘‘That the audience are actually at times, they are at the (dance) festivals,’’ he says.
‘‘So exploding out into the space, dancing in the space, dancing being all around you.
‘‘One thing I can guarantee you, everything dances in this show.’’
– CARIS BIZZACA
Strictly Ballroom The Musical plays Sydney’s Lyric Theatre from March 25.
The cast of
with Baz Lurhmann (centre).