It was the perfect homecoming for Will Mellor at the AO Arena in Manchester - as the Strictly Come Dancing Live juggernaut arrived in town with a flourish of sequin-festooned swagger. The Manchester crowds were clearly in the mood to right the perceived wrong of Will voted out in the semi-final on the TV show.
They crowned him the people's champion at both the matinee and evening live shows on Saturday after doing ballroom battle against six fellow stars of the 20th Strictly Come Dancing BBC series. But this was not mere partisan approval either for the Bredbury-raised Coronation Street star.
The returning show judges Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel-Horwood and Anton Du Beke gave Will and dance partner Nancy Xu the only perfect scores of 60/60 on the night after he failed to put so much as a toe wrong at the live extravaganza of the hit BBC series.
Read more: Helen Skelton shares problem as she reunites with Gorka with new partner Kai at Strictly Live
It left Will, and his dance partner Nancy Xu, full of emotion. Will had earlier told the crowds how special the Saturday night show was with his whole family in the audience to cheer him on - including his wife Michelle and daughter Renee.
He said: "I'll never forget this night having my family here, I've been to this arena so many times as a kid, it's an absolute dream to be here. Manchester you've made this so memorable.
"It means the world to me to be here in my hometown. It's like a dream to me, I grew up around here, my family are in tonight and thank you to everyone for making it so special.
"My daughter's here tonight, my wife is here tonight, so the memories are already there."
There was also a special shoutout from Will to former Strictly star Gemma Atkinson and her daughter Mia who has become Will's "biggest little fan". Mia was in the crowds with Gemma and dad, Strictly dancer Gorka Marquez.
"Just want to say a shout out to Little Mia Marquez. She is here tonight with Gorka and Gemma she's a beautiful little girl and she loves that song."
Will's triumph came as the perfect end to the pretty damn near perfect night of entertainment on the Strictly tour. Celebrating the 20th series on screen, the returning stars from the show and the Strictly professionals delivered a masterclass of live Latin and ballroom excellence.
Series winner Hamza Yassin was back with Jowita Przystal; Helen Skelton with new dance partner for the tour Kai Widdrington; finalist Fleur East with Vito Coppola and joint runners-up Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu. Fan favourite Tyler West rejoined dance partner Dianne Buswell and Ellie Simmonds with Nikita Kuzmin - although she hilariously forgot his name at one point on the Saturday night show.
The show, choreographed by judge Craig Revel-Horwood, had all the highlights from the series with plenty of hilarious banter and cheeky quips from the stars and the judges alongside polished presenter Janette Manrara. Anton Du Beke, here on his first ever live tour as a judge, certainly made his impression - getting some of the biggest laughs on the night with his near to the knuckle quips alongside Shirley Ballas and Craig completing the tittering trio.
The first half delivered some of the best highlights from the Strictly star's journeys - Fleur’s sizzling samba, Helen’s high energy quickstep, Ellie’s emotional waltz, Molly's memorable quickstep, Will’s jaw-dropping jive, Tyler’s cheeky Charleston, Hamza’s amazing American Smooth. As we head into the interval, the audience are then able to start voting for their favourites to win.
But things really heat up a notch in the second half as the stars go all out to impress the audience for those votes. Will reprising his famous finger curling and hip thrusting Dirty Dancing style American Smooth, Tyler with his booty-shaking Salsa to That's the Way I Like it, Hamza's acrobatic feats with Jowita in the salsa and Fleur's simply flawless couple's choice to a Beyonce medley.
But a unified standing ovation - even from Craig - was delivered to Helen Skelton with her now iconic dance to Mein Herr from Cabaret. It's a goosebumps moment as she simply commands the dancefloor - she has a cast of professionals all around her but honestly you cannot take your eyes off her every incredible movement in this dance.
Special shout out to the live band and singers on the tour - delivering some truly spine-tingling performances on the arena stage, a stand-out track comes from Strictly singer Tommy Blaize with a belting New York New York to accompany Hamza's American Smooth. And we even get the dulcet tones of Anton to perform There's No Business like Showbusiness for a suitably Hollywood ending to the show's first half.
As we approach the final scores reveal, it is deservedly Helen and Will who have won the most votes in Manchester on Saturday night. Although you just get the feeling that it was always going to be Will's moment back here on home turf and a huge cheer erupts when he is announced the Manchester glitterball winner.
Really though, it's we the audience who are the big winners. This latest Strictly live tour is a sheer two and a half hours of escapist joy for all ages.
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