Strictly Confidential is a song-and-dance extravaganza dreamt up, directed and co-ordinated by Craig Revel Horwood, tell-it-like-it-is judge on BBC1’s runaway hit, Strictly Come Dancing. And it’s coming to a theatre near you.
Starring Lisa Riley and professional dancers Artem Chigvintsev, Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite, it will tell their individual stories and weave in routines – everything from ballroom to a clog dance – in an evening that Craig hopes will make your spirits soar even while you suppress the occasional sniffle.
You’ll have seen them on TV; you may have caught up with them on the arena tour. But now, here’s your chance to get up close and personal to the accompaniment of everything from pop hits to show tunes sung to a live band.
“‘I interviewed all four of them to find out their life stories,” says Craig, “the ups and downs of becoming dancers that brought them to the point of being involved in Strictly. I then wrote an autobiographical arc for each of them. I was keen to construct a show that wasn’t just a series of demonstration dances.”
So it is that we’ll hear from Lisa about losing her beloved mother, Cath, to cancer just weeks before Lisa started on Strictly. “Cath’s favourite song,” says Craig, “was In My Daughter’s Eyes. Lisa will tell the audience how she coped before going into a dance based on that song. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
But there’ll be some fun, too, including a ballet based on Emmerdale in which she appeared as Mandy Dingle. “She’ll also be doing the splits eight times a week which will bring water to my eyes, if not hers. I couldn’t believe it when she did it at Wembley. The entire arena shook. It was amazing. But then so is her singing voice. You wait until you hear her version of All That Jazz.”
Similarly, we’ll learn about Artem’s tough time growing up in Russia; about Ian confronting his sexuality; and how Natalie had to beat the odds to follow her dream.
“I want to show how they’ve battled obstacles with courage and that very often it’s through song and dance that they’ve found a way forward.
“I also want to take the audience backstage at Strictly to show the nerves that everyone feels before they come out and dance in front of 14 million people with a camera thrust in their face. I’m trying to reveal the face behind the mask.” Helping in that process will be a stunning selection of costumes worn on the TV show that will be on display at each venue visited by the Strictly Confidential tour.
Says Lisa: “I’m never happier than when I’ve got a smile on my face and I’m given the opportunity to perform. I could be working in Asda but I’m not; I’m doing the career I’ve always wanted. I think Craig spotted that quite early on. But not initially.
“Did people think I was going to be a female John Sergeant? Probably, yes. Before Robin Windsor and I danced our first cha-cha, the bookies’ odds on me were 88-1. On the Sunday morning, I was on the front page of every newspaper and my odds had plummeted to 6-1.”
Certainly, Artem couldn’t be happier. “I’ll be dancing with Lisa which I’m very excited about because she did so amazingly on Strictly last season.” He started dancing in Russia when he was 12. “Dance is very popular there so that wasn’t so unusual. I had so much free time after school that my mother enrolled me for dance classes.
“Initially, I enjoyed the social side of it but slowly it was something I realised I could do. At 16, I moved to Germany because I’d found a German dancing partner who really suited my style. It was scary and exciting at the same time. I had to learn quickly – how to cook, do my own washing and so on.”
Two years later, he returned home for about 18 months and then moved to America where he got involved with the Dancing With The Stars tour.
“It was while I was performing in Korea in the Burn The Floor show that I was contacted by the producer of Strictly and became one of the professional dancers in the competition in 2010. I was so lucky. I was partnered with Kara [Tointon]. We won the show – and I got the girl. We’re still together.”
Natalie wasn’t even walking, she says, when she’d be watching her brother and sister learn how to dance. “We lived next door to a ballroom dance hall in Sydney. I couldn’t wait to get started.
“I was five when I won my first competition and first represented Australia in an international contest in Taiwan when I was eight. I then went on to be a four-times ballroom dancing champion.”
She’s tall – five feet ten without heels – so finding a partner was difficult once she hit her teens. In time, “I partnered my brother, Glenn, for five years but then I outgrew him, too.”
After five series of Dancing With The Stars in Australia, Natalie joined the ‘cast’ of Strictly in 2009. “I could have gone to the American version but I wanted to come to the UK more because the quality of ballroom dancing here is the best in the world.”
She’s glad she did. “In my very first year, my partner, Ricky Whittle, and I were placed second. We had a great connection. He’s a natural mover.”
Ian Waite first got interested in dance around the age of 10 from watching old musicals with his grandmother who often looked after him. “My hero was Gene Kelly. I loved Singin’ In The Rain and An American In Paris.
“I was very sporty, very competitive. At 11, I went to dance classes with my father. The first competition I entered, I won. The dye was cast. At 18, I was European champion in my age group in Latin American dance.”
He then moved to Holland where he and his partner became Dutch champions while also being in the Top 10 in the world. Back in the UK, he teamed up with Camilla Dallerup and then joined Strictly for its second series. He’s been involved ever since. “And now comes Strictly Confidential. Can’t wait.”
Last word to Craig. “This is a show,” he says, “that in some ways isn’t so very different from A Chorus Line, currently back in the West End. It’s an exploration of the people who make their living through dance. And, I might add, a great night out!”
For tour details, call Ticketzone on 08444 99 99 55
Or view: www.strictlyconfidentialtour.com