Review: Nadiya and Kai Once Upon a Time Tour at O2 City Hall Newcastle
Nadiya and Kai Once Upon a Time Tour – Thursday 27th April
Once Upon a Time is a fairy tale like no other. It is the brand-new dance show starring Strictly superstars Nadiya and Kai, for the first time on stage together.
Our two stars have created a stunning show that highlights their different backgrounds, showcasing their incredible ballroom journeys whilst shining a spotlight on their love affair with dance.
It also celebrates their wonderful relationship on and off the dance floor, whilst following their journey from childhood dancers to ballroom and Latin champions, becoming TV stars and more.
Self described on the venue website they will share their inspirations and aspirations, for their first ever UK tour. It will be a lavish production with beautiful choreography, stunning costumes and a talented cast of dancers and musicians.
We were so excited to visit City Hall tonight- particularly my Mam who is a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing! The last dance extravaganza I saw was truly special so I was hoping this would live up to expectations! I really wasn’t sure of what to expect from this show and as we walked into the venue we were greeted with an open stage and four big projector screens. Simple but effective, I loved the staircase use too. I always find it weird going into Newcastle o2 City Hall and seeing the rows of seats in there as I’m usually attending gigs there. The seats had plenty of room too. The audience was around half full and there were quite a few empty rows behind us which was a shame. The staff at City Hall are always wonderfully friendly and I actually lost my Mam within the first ten minutes of entering the building and the door woman kept her company. I thought there was going to be a tannoy like when you lost your parents in the shop as a child. Not the best start to the evening!
The whole show is based around the Strictly Come Dancing couple – Kai Widdrington and Nadiya Bychkova. Both loveable and entertaining, they have graced our screens for a good few years on Strictly Come Dancing and have become household favourites. Poor Kai was voted out in Week One of Strictly last year with his partner Kay Adams and Nadiya was partnered with Matt Goss from Bros.
Our show began with the wonderful Tomas Wolstenholme taking centre stage playing a beautiful rendition of City of Stars from La La Land. This man’s talents on the acoustic guitar amazed me! So skilful and you could tell he really felt the music. He covered so many different genres of music throughout the night and I was blown away by his repertoire. He managed to cover lots of swing music, pop songs, even some George Formby! Properly epic. Alongside his excellent skills on guitar he had such a stunning voice and he executed the songs so well.
The Lala Land medley continued throughout the first part of our show and we got to meet the wonderful ensemble of dancers who never let up throughout the whole show. They showed real grit, passion and honestly, it just looked like they were having so much fun. Bravo to the Dance Captain, Chloe Hewitt who performed with amazing Gousto – I’m sure this is no surprise though as she became a World, European and 3x National Ballroom and Latin champion all by the age of 20. I do have to say though I couldn’t take my eyes off of one dancer in particular. Oliver Beardmore was a pocket rocket full of energy and excitement. He was electric upon that stage and moved with such eccentricity. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dancer quite like him- very unique and definitely has his own style.
As you can imagine, the choreography throughout the show was just top tier and when I read the programme I was not surprised as Scott Coldwell worked his magic on this stunning production once again. I took great pleasure in being able to watch his previous work in Come What May and once again, he sparkled his talent all over this show too. A perfect mixture of Ballroom and Latin was fused with even some Vogueing and Street Dance. This shows how much talent he has being able to bring this all together.
After the opening number, Kai and Nadiya came out and welcomed the audience. Kai was a true natural on stage and I definitely could see him as a presenter in the near future. Nadiya was a little shy but very well spoken and came across as so pure and genuine. As she emphasised English is not her first or even second language and he got us all to say Good Evening! to her in Ukrainian- Доброго вечора!
The show was broken down into a variety of different scenes taking us through the lives of Kai and Nadiya. After the first sequence – The Hollywood Dream, we were introduced to Childhood Years. I adored the use of the screens in this section as it took a flashback through their younger years of dancing and we got to see old footage of the pair. I particularly loved Kai’s red Latin trousers – if only he had worn another pair last night! They made reference to Kai’s footballing background and discussed how he had decided to follow his heart with dancing.
My favourite scene had to be the Blackpool Memories. It started with the wonderful Tomas playing ukulele and singing to George Formby’s With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock. We eventually got into Kai and Nadiya’s Blackpool Competition where our ensemble dancers really got to shine. Alongside Chloe and Oliver we also got to see Adam Brunyee and Jasmine Chan wow as well as our Spanish entry, Margot Weeda and Ruben Rodriguez. This was actually a really funny segment and we were amazed by all of the latin moves throughout. Kai’s impressions throughout the show were truly brilliant, especially his Anton Dubek and Shirley Ballas- he kept apologising for them being terrible but I truly thought they were hilarious! He also told a lot of cheesy jokes as well as one particularly tongue in cheek joke about his Strictly costars. After a lot of audience participation in this segment we were transported to their influences.
Nadiya did a stunning job with her Marilyn Diamonds medley- I will say the compositions of music throughout were properly awesome. Mixing old with new and giving the dancers the perfect accompaniments. A huge well done to the Music Supervisor Matthew Howes. You could see how much thought and development had been put into all of these elements of the show. Then, we were wowed with Kai’s Elvis impersonation. It was really a splendour to watch to be honest and he could have given Austin Butler a run for his money with those hips. This had all of the women swooning in the audience. They then donned their finest Ballroom Wears for their Backstage Romance dance towards the end of the Elvis set and danced to Can’t Help Falling in Love which was stunning. I usually always prefer Latin dances however, the Ballroom element of this show was truly breathtaking throughout. You can see Kai and Nadiya are literally perfect dance partners. The way they floated across the stage was magical.
At the end of Act One, we were treated to the passionate and fierce Paso Doble to Britney Spears’ Toxic. This is a dance that always gives me chills and the stage was flooded with blood red lighting. The lighting throughout was fantastic and fit perfectly with every single song- the strobe lights were very bright however, so this is just something to note. Doug Cairns was the Set and Lighting designer and he truly did a splendid job. Kai’s facial expressions throughout the final dance actually gave me goosebumps as he puts his full being into his routines. A true stand out for me.
Act Two began with A Cinderella Story which was mesmerising. The costuming in this particular scene was truly a sight to behold. I would like to take one of those pastel ballroom gowns in every colour please. They did promise us spectacular costumes at the beginning of the first act and truly they did not disappoint. Vibrant colours and so much sparkle – they glittered and glistened as they moved across the stage, I wonder how long it took to rhinestone some of them! Carol Howard is clearly a master of the costuming world as not a single costume was a miss.
I loved Kai’s interaction with the audience after this as he took to the stage with the microphone once again. In the first half, he had picked on the audience member Tony who was there with his wife. At one point I thought he was going to get him on stage to dance. Kai was heckled by quite a few thirsty audience members who I think would have loved to get up there and have a dance with him. He took this in his stride and never let this put him off- he thought on the spot well and provided us with great entertainment. He discussed how the three key factors when looking for a dance partner were- Height, Rhythm and Chemistry- something which he and Nadiya have in abundance. We were then taken through their dream jobs in the future- The Fashion Icon and The Entertainer. I’ll let you guess which is which!
Nadiya is every inch the model, the longest legs I have ever seen and such a beautiful face. She could wear anything and make it look amazing. I really enjoyed watching her dance to modern songs- it kind of felt like I was in the nightclub with her! Kai took to the stage to perform some Bruno Mars and this was awesome too. My only critique was the use of the screens throughout the rest of the show. Personally, at times I did find it a little cheesy but they did act well as a filler for building excitement for them coming out. The content shot on them was brilliant however.
Nearing the end of our performance, they took to the stage to pay homage to their family. It was so lovely as Kai’s Newcastle Born Grandad or Pops was in the audience watching, making it an even more special performance for him. Nadiya gushed about her gorgeous daughter and I’m sure I saw a tear in my Mam’s eye as she was talking about the importance of being a Mother. As this final speaking part was coming to a close they thanked their whole production team and rightly so as they had done such a wonderful job. They also made a really touching tribute to the late and great Len Goodman who was such a huge part of the Strictly Come Dancing family. They finished this beautiful part with one of the most breathtaking dances I have ever seen and yes, I did cry- no surprises there! Because you loved me by Celine Dion was their backing track as they Waltzed across the stage effortlessly. The spins and tricks were seamless and they made every single element look so natural. They really did save the best till last.
A brilliant end to the show with Putting on the Ritz got the whole audience up on their feet for a rapturous applause. A standing ovation well deserved.
Overall, it was really lovely to fall in love with both of these two- Kai, a natural born entertainer and part show off and Nadiya, a sweet and genuine soul. Amazing dancing, spectacular costuming and all round a great night of entertainment.