Strictly Come Dancing Live at Liverpool Arena ****
While the popularity of some Saturday night TV shows might arguably be on the wane, Strictly Come Dancing cha chas on in a cloud of sequins, fake tan, heel leads and high-wattage smiles.
It’s warm-hearted family entertainment, and that’s also reflected in the annual Live tour which has returned to Liverpool after missing the city out of its schedule in 2018.
Yes, it’s all carefully scripted. Yes, all the contestants and their professional partners get a bit squirmingly earnest about each other in the second half. And yes, it comes with a very occasional serving of glitter-encrusted cheesiness.
But it’s also an evening of impressively and slickly choreographed, good-natured, joyful entertainment and hell, let’s face it, that’s what we all need at the moment.
This year’s tour looks the part, from the big ruched curtains to the old-fashioned street lights to the glitterballs and multi-colour LED chandeliers.
All four Strictly judges are on board, including Wirral’s finest Shirley Ballas, boomeranging back to the Mersey after panto duties at the Empire and with her mum in the audience at the newly-monikered M&S Bank Arena. Former champion Ore Oduba proves an urbane and genial jesting host, and the band and singers – including Liverpool’s Tommy Blaize - are in fine form.
Stacey Dooley and Aljaz Skorjanec perform an American Smooth to I Dreamed a Dream
In the midst of all this sparkle are two sets of solo dances for the celebrities and their partners, and a number of group dances, all performed with what appears to be genuine enjoyment. As jobs go, it’s not a bad one to have.
There’s a good mix of styles and showiness, from Ashley Roberts’ crisp table top jive to Graeme Swann’s clang clang clanging theatre jazz Trolley Song, Dr Ranj’s happily camp Fireball salsa to Lauren Steadman’s elegant Viennese Waltz.
Clear crowd-pleasers on Tuesday night included Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice’s inspired yet frankly bonkers Charleston danced to the Lonely Goatherd (with big furry goats swivelling away in the background), Joe Suggs’ rip-roaring I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor showdance, and the fierce and fabulous ‘Paso Dooley’.
It’s all a bit padded out towards the end as the audience votes are ‘counted and verified’, but as an overall evening of entertainment it’s Strictly fab-u-lous dahling.
And who won the hearts and votes of the Liverpool audience, this time at least? ‘Cotton eyed’ Joe Sugg.