Strictly Come Dancing 2022: Musicals Week, review - superb Helen Skelton let down by partner Gorka’s puerile protest

It's Musicals Week and it's delivering spectacular dancing and costumes - BBC/Guy Levy
It's Musicals Week and it's delivering spectacular dancing and costumes - BBC/Guy Levy

Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One) on a Friday somehow felt slightly wrong. It was like a Sunday roast on a Tuesday. Or, indeed, a football World Cup in winter, which is how the BBC schedules got upended in the first place. Happily, a dazzling show compensated for any diary-based disorientation.

The twinkle-toed contest had reached its quarter-final phase, so it was time for the jazzhand-waving spectacle of Musicals Week. The remaining six pro-celebrity pairs tackled routines inspired by West End and Broadway hits. Unlike this year’s other themed weeks - Halloween, Movies and the aberration which was BBC 100 - this one delivered spectacular dancing as well as fancy dress.

Like the Blackpool seaside special a fortnight ago, routines were given extra razzle-dazzle with the addition of props, costumes and backing dancers. The gimmickry occasionally distracted but playing characters and telling stories seemed to liberate several celebrities, meaning they turned in their best performance yet.

Chief among these was former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, who continues to blossom in confidence and ability. Her quirky Cabaret-themed Couple’s Choice was sharply stylised, channelled Sally Bowles’ sensuality and built in momentum to a rousing Bob Fosse finish. The lyrics of Mein Herr felt pleasingly pointed at Skelton’s cheating ex-husband Richie Myler, adding a further frisson of empowerment.

Sadly she was let down by her professional partner Gorka Marquez, who repeated his tiresome habit of dashing over and pushing his bottom towards Craig Revel Horwood when the judge was mildly critical. It felt like casual homophobia and Revel Horwood rightly waved it away, like a bear swatting at an irritating wasp.

Two other couples registered their highest scores yet. Will Mellor tied with Skelton at the summit of the leaderboard for a Miss Saigon slow foxtrot which was heartfelt, full of divine footwork details and mercifully free of frills. Motsi Mabuse accurately called it a “quiet wow”, Revel Horwood “thoroughly gaw-jus”. Having topped the standings last week as well, Mellor is hitting form at the right time.

Will Mellor's foxtrot was heartful
Will Mellor's foxtrot was heartful

It was a similar story for CBBC starlet Molly Rainford, who opened the bill with a jazzy ripper of a Chicago Charleston, packed with character and quirkiness. Rainford has survived three dance-offs and might lack the fanbase to go all the way but has bused out her two best dances in the past week. On pure ability, she deserves to reach the final.

Wildlife presenter Hamza Yassin suffered a rare dip. His Lion King samba notched a clean sweep of nines but fell flat by his sky-high standards, partly down to a strange music choice. Fleur East closed proceedings with a dazzllng quickstep to An American In Paris. It was a shame that the episode overrunning meant the panel’s comments were truncated, otherwise she’d surely have received the gushing praise she deserved.

If justice is done when the public vote is combined with the judges’ scores, it will be Kym Marsh who misses out on the final five. Back from a week off due to a positive Covid test, Marsh donned an Eighties wig, legwarmers and a leotard for a Fame cha cha cha. It paid welcome tribute to the film’s recently deceased star Irene Cara but lacked Cuban motion. Her race might be run.

A shorter week meant a day’s less training time for the couples but it barely showed, with only 16 points dropped across six routines. The scoring might be inflated but this is a high-standard series and the magic of musical theatre made it sing. Former Strictly favourite Oti Mabuse returned to co-choreograph a curtain-raising group number by the professional troupe. It was a fast, furious medley, mashing up eight different musicals, with live vocals provided by West End stars Marisha Wallace, Ivano Turco and Trevor Dion Nicholas.

Strictly might have come a day early but this was an all-singing, all-dancing Friday night feast. Next weekend’s semi-final is also shunted from its usual slot, instead airing on the Sunday. Dance fans might be cursing FIFA but the closely fought hoofing contest’s home stretch still promises to be a fascinating one.