Strictly is coming to town! And, for the first time ever, all four of the current TV judges are on the panel when the show takes to the road from the middle of January, writes Richard Barber…

A veteran of the tour Craig Revel Horwood described it as “a real treat for the fans.” Since 2010, he’s not only performed his familiar role as a judge on the Strictly tour, he’s also the director of the high-octane production. It’s quite an undertaking, something he first starts planning the previous June. “That’s the concept, the lighting, the music, the dance routines, the whole shebang,” he said.

And each year the theme is different. “The challenge is to better yourself every time, always trying to make it bolder, more theatrical. For 2019, there’s a water theme mixed with a disco feel. The current TV series began with a dance staged in and around the fountains at Somerset House and I wanted to continue that theme,” Craig continued.

“I’m also keen on fantastic costume changes. The sparkle you are able to achieve with all the lights in the arena is incredible. It’s really something seeing the celebrities and pros dazzle in front of your eyes!”

Arena audiences are in for a real treat, says Craig, with a fantastic evening of entertainment, showcasing all the amazing choreography and incredible live music for which Strictly is famous. They’ll experience a host of breathtaking dance routines together with all the glitz, glamour and magic of the TV show live on stage. “This is a must-see spectacle for fans of all ages.”

As well as enjoying the glittering routines, audiences also have the power to decide who wins the coveted Live Tour Glitterball trophy at the end of each show. After each celebrity couple has performed, the tour judges will provide their invaluable critique and scores but the audience can also text their votes for their favourite couple and ultimately decide who wins.

“The atmosphere, the level of excitement are something it’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it for yourself,” Craig said. “And, from a personal point of view, if you’re appearing, say, at The O2, with 12,000 people cheering you on, you get some idea of what it must feel like to be Lady Gaga.”

Darcey Bussell has been a Strictly judge for seven years now but the tour at the beginning of 2018 was the first time she’d been on the road with the show. “It was lovely to see the enthusiastic reaction of the audiences on tour,” she says. “I’m used to Elstree, where the live TV show is filmed in front of 500 guests but that doesn’t prepare you for being in front of thousands of fantastic Strictly fans.”

As a ballet dancer, she’s well used to regional tours. “People always appreciate it, I think, that you’ve made the effort to come to their city. But the enormity of the arenas where the Strictly tour takes place is something else. I simply couldn’t believe the noise levels – I think Glasgow were the loudest! I’d been told to expect a big reception but this was off the scale.”

“On a Saturday, it’s not so easy to chat as it is such a busy day. But you become one big family on the road. It reminds me of when I did my first big tour with The Royal Ballet, to Asia, when I was 18. It was the most exciting experience, and even with the hard work, I’ll never forget it – I feel the same way about the Strictly tour,” she continued.

This will be head judge Shirley Ballas’s first Strictly tour and she can’t wait, she says. “Apart from anything else, it means that I’ll get to meet so many of the people who’ve watched and enjoyed the show at home,” she said. “I love dancing. I love music. I love Strictly,” says Shirley. “What’s not to like?”

The Strictly Come Dancing tour begins with six shows in Birmingham from 18 January and then visits Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Nottingham, finishing with six shows in London, including a weekend of shows at The O2 Arena on 9 and 10 February.

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