Strictly Come Dancing The Live Tour 2020 was sensational, sparkling, and spectacular.
Opening the tour in Arena Birmingham on Thursday night, we were delightfully transported back to a time just before Christmas - when Strictly was the centre of our Saturday nights on BBC One.
The celebs were back, glimmering and glittering in their sequin outfits alongside their professional partners; the judges were back, as critical but as complimentary as ever drawing out excitable boos and cheers from the crowd.
And this year the wonderful Stacey Dooley, 2018’s Strictly champion, was our host - bringing out the very best from the bubbling audience.
“Birmingham we love you,” the TV presenter called out. “Are you ready?
“Brace yourself please for sequins, surprises and a whole lot of drama as our couples battle it out for that glitter ball trophy. I know how determined they will be to get that.”
Head judge Shirley Ballas said she was “delighted” to be back in Birmingham, while Bruno Tonioli added it was a “thrill”. Even the usually-grumpy Craig Revel Horwood said he was “smiling inside” and that it was “great to be back”.
After a show-stopping number from the fabulous professional Strictly dancers, the show was underway at the newly named Utilita Arena Birmingham.
The seven couples taking part were Strictly 2019 champion Kelvin Fletcher and his partner for the night Janette Manrara replacing Oti Mabuse, Emma Barton and her partner for the night Graziano Di Prima replacing Anton Du Beke, Saffron Barker and AJ Pritchard, Catherine Tyldesley and Johannes Radebe, Alex Scott and Neil Jones, Mike Bushell and Katya Jones, and Karim Zeroul with Dudley’s very own Amy Dowden.
Strictly Live will be touring across the UK over the next few months, and on each live show the judges score both dances performed by the celebrities and their partners.
But those scores are just a guide - it’s down to the audience to text on the night and choose who they want to see lift that sparkling glitterball in their city.
Each couple chose their two favourite dances to perform on the night.
Kelvin raised the roof with a repeat of his heart-stopping show dance to You Make Me Wanna Shout, which Craig called “fab-u-lous!”.
Karim delighted with his joyful jive to Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop the Beat, while Catherine brought the arena to a standstill with her emotive rumba to Shallow, from A Star Is Born.
In the end - and after energetic and fantastic performances from all seven pairings - it was Kelvin and Karim both standing proudly at the top of the leaderboard with near perfect scores of 59 out of 60.
Sadly, at the other end of the leaderboard was Mike and Katya with 36 out of 60. While Shirley said Mike “certainly knew how to entertain” with his cha cha to It’s Raining Men, it didn’t see him attract the top scores, with cruel Craig even giving him a 3 - much to the horror of the audience!
But overall, our winner on Thursday night in Birmingham was Kelvin and Janette. You could have predicted it, the crowd just went wild every time Kelvin appeared on stage - there was a whole lot of love for the Emmerdale actor.
But who will take the trophy for the rest of the live shows?
The entire performance was a joy to watch - and Dave Arch’s band with live singers Tommy, Hayley, Andrea and Patrick added even more glamour to the glittering night.
“Birmingham, you have been outstanding,” host Stacey said as she closed the show. “We love you so much. Until next time, keep dancing!”