Pictures from Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour at Birmingham's Barclaycard Arena
Would Simon and Kristina reprise their jaw-dropping Argentine Tango? Does Scott Mills really dance that badly? Would the audience ritually boo Craig Revel Horwood for low marks?
Just three of the questions overheard in the queue outside the Arena on Thursday afternoon - and the answer was yes to all of them.
The BBC’s autumn schedule flagship programme has been touring for 8 years, and this is a brand guaranteed to delight all who see it, and which importantly transfers brilliantly from screen to large stage.
The venue was respectably full for a matinee performance, with the men well outnumbered by the ladies of course, but this was a show for all – clean, relaxed and really quite intimate in a not-so-intimate venue thanks to excellent camera work and Zoe Ball’s effortlessly confident presentation style.
The three judges, Craig and past competitors Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup, were introduced and positioned in front of the band, and battle commenced.
The action on the floor was what we all came to see, and the seven couples on show, largely the 2014 show contestants with their professional partners, were all exceptional in the two ballroom or Latin dances they performed. No-one was concerned about Radio One DJ Scott Mills’ dancing, but his performances made for great theatre and entertainment, playing Uncle Fester from the Munsters and a large crab, with what seemed to be the same moves.
Of course, there was dancing and costume brilliance on display, and they all left off from where the TV series finished at Christmas. Yes, Simon Webbe from Blue did complete his Argentine Tango with that jaw-dropping, gravity-defying last move which leaves his partner Kristina suspended upside down, to tumultuous applause.
Rachel Stevens, a contestant in 2008 and with minimal rehearsal time, stepped back into the show as if she’s never been away, to dance with Kevin Clifton – destined to be known for all time now, as Kevin from Grimsby.
It was an afternoon full of fresh and delightful performances from everyone, each topped off with witty interrogation and marking sessions. The judges were informative and supportive, and even Craig, revelling in his newly-botoxed image, was smiling throughout and even persuaded himself to give Caroline a mark of 10.
So, gold stars all round, and whilst they all deserved a glitter ball for their efforts, it was Caroline Flack, the 2014 series winner, who picked up the most points and text votes to take this particular event’s prize.
Special words for the excellence of the set design and the lighting, together with the high-quality camera work, which brought the audience right into the action, and made the interviewing process armchair-friendly.
The live band, under musical director Allan Rodgers, together with their five singers, were all fine solo and group performers, and added measurably to the event’s success.
Strictly great entertainment for the whole family, and especially for TOWIE actor Mark Wright’s personal appreciation society, who sat noisily and enthusiastically behind me.