Dangle the disco balls and crank up Copacabana because Strictly’s live tour is back on the road. With the full coterie of judges and seven competing couples, including charming reigning champ Stacey Dooley (partnered by Aljaz Skorjanec instead of Kevin Clifton), the tour doesn’t feel like the TV show’s poor cousin but more of a massive spangled sister.
Admittedly it’s hard to recreate the Saturday night excitement within the hangar-like space of Birmingham Arena – likeable host Ore Oduba can’t really get the crowd going at full-tilt. Nevertheless, the energy levels are high from all involved, not least excitable judge Bruno Tonioli, whose use of figurative language and innuendo is puckishly sublime. Former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev set the bar high with their greasy spoon-themed jive, souped up with an ensemble of professional dancers, all slick as pomade.
Steps’ Faye Tozer consistently impresses with a swinging, swooning ode to Tinseltown and an antic Charleston accompanied by yodelling (the singers and band are excellent) and a capering quartet of large furry goats, while Giovanni Pernice wrings the comedy out of his frightening blonde bowl-cut wig and lederhosen.
Even the less accomplished celebrity dancers seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves – Dr Ranj Singh is an uninhibited wiggler – which brings a real warmth to proceedings. Paralympic athlete Lauren Steadman and Stoke-on-Trent’s finest son AJ Pritchard perform a liltingly lovely waltz but perhaps the show’s best revelation is judge Shirley Ballas expertly strutting her stuff in gold during the joyful finale.