Fans Can’t Stop Dancing as Strictly Tour Arrives at Manchester’s AO Arena

The BBC’s glitziest prime time show swapped the small screen for the big stage on Saturday night.

Let’s get one thing straight before we begin. I’m not the target audience of this show. I’m not the sort of person who sits down every weekend, eagerly waiting to find out if Tony Adams is going to survive another week to wear an increasingly tight sequin shirt. I wasn’t necessarily dragged by the ear to this dancing extravaganza, but I also wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t dearly love my girlfriend enough to buy her tickets.

And yet…as soon as the trumpets started blaring for an opening number of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, performed admirably by Tommy Blaze, I have to admit I was hooked.

The show delivers everything one might expect from the TV behemoth, just played out to an even larger adoring crowd that dutifully celebrated every impressive lift and spin. It would be easy to brand the spectacle as formulaic, down to Craig Revel Horwood’s predictably dour façade, never once stepping away from the ingredients that have made it so successful.

But why should it be expected to do anything other than what it knows best? All it took was Tyler West throwing his red-headed partner Diane Buswell around like a rag doll to have me exclaiming “dearie me” like an avid spectator.

The response to the likes of West and Paralympian Ellie Simmonds was suitably appreciative of the part they played in the latest series’ popularity, but was nothing in comparison to the thunderous cheer when local boy Will Mellor strutted onto stage. With his impossibly revealing shirt leaving his chest bare, the women around me were practically catatonic with every vigorous hip thrust.

It came as no surprise that he won the evening’s competition, likely in a landslide victory if the audible heart palpitations from the ‘true’ fans behind me were any barometer.

Away from the performers, the true star of the show was judge Anton du Beke, still gladly celebrating his triumph at the NTA awards at the end of last year. He was perfect at playing to the crowd, speaking in endless, entertaining rambles, perhaps to the bemusement of his colleagues. To describe his demeanour would be to suggest he was simply ecstatic about getting out of the house, laughing throughout the entirety of the two-hour show. It was a treat to behold at times.

Until he started singing as part of the pre-interval send-off. The less said about that, the better.

In truth, the only misstep was when the dancing invariably stopped, and attention swung to host Janette Manrara. All the energy seemed to be sucked out of the room whenever she spoke, leaving me desperate for the next act to rush on. She won’t be challenging the likes of Winkleman or even Daly as the head of the main show anytime soon.

That’s me being picky, as if I had to pinpoint something negative to keep up the pretence to my girlfriend that I’m a person who wouldn’t be sucked in by the glitz and glam. I may not be able to maintain the performance any longer after this exposure to the fabled glitter ball.

I suppose my autumn plans will now have to revolve around eagerly waiting to find out if whichever former footballer is rolled out next series will survive to dance another day.

The tour arrives at Newcastle tonight, before stints in London, Belfast and Glasgow. You can buy tickets here: Tour Dates 2023 – Strictly Come Dancing Live!

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