EXCLUSIVE: Strictly stars are frustrated at having to compete against West End star Layton Williams: ‘There is such an uneven playing field’
Strictly Come Dancing stars are becoming increasingly frustrated at having to compete against professional West End star Layton Williams, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The trained dancer, 29, has scored 39 out of 40 from judges in the last two weeks and seems destined to win the series.
Yet he has been performing on stage since he was 12, when he played the title role in the West End musical Billy Elliot.
A Strictly insider has told of the anger and upset that Williams is so vastly more experienced than other contestants, saying he’s at least at the same level as his professional partner, Nikita Kuzmin, which ‘goes against the spirit of the show’.
The source said: ‘Of course there have always been dancers of different standards on Strictly, that’s part of the show’s greatness.
Trouble: Strictly Come Dancing stars are becoming increasingly frustrated at having to compete against professional West End star Layton Williams, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
Talent: The trained dancer has scored 39 out of 40 from judges in the last two weeks and seems destined to win the series
‘But this is ridiculous, he is as good or even better than his professional partner. There is such an uneven playing field here that it is impossible for any of the other contestants to have a chance of winning, even if the viewers do enjoy watching a celebrity’s journey.
‘While there might not be a rule that professional dancers can’t take part, it absolutely goes against the spirit of the show.
‘Look at someone like Krishnan Guru-Murthy, he has built up a huge fan base and is wonderful to watch, and Angela Rippon. But they are blown out of the water each week by someone who is a professional dancer.’
A Strictly spokesperson declined to comment.
A Strictly insider told MailOnline Layton ‘is not the first person with dance experience’ to have appeared on the show [others include Kimberley Walsh, Maisie Smith and Abbey Clancy].
They added he ‘has never been trained in Latin and ballroom and was booked because he has a fantastic persona’.
Williams’ appearance on Strictly comes five years after pop star Ashley Roberts was lambasted by Strictly fans for having an unfair advantage, because she had studied dance in her youth.
The Pussycat Dolls singer repeatedly found herself in the bottom two because viewers took against her. The backlash, which repeatedly reduced her to tears, was so ferocious that even host Tess Daly appealed to those voting to ‘cut her a little slack.’
Experience: A Strictly insider has told of the anger and upset that Williams is so vastly more experienced than other contestants
An insider said: ‘There is such an uneven playing field here that it is impossible for any of the other contestants to have a chance of winning’
Williams, who on tonight’s Halloween show will dance the tango to Vampire by Olivia Rodrigo, has wowed the judges since he arrived on Strictly. Last week he was awarded 10s by Shirley Ballas, Motsi Mabuse and Anton Du Beke and a 9 from Craig Revel Horwood.
The 29-year-old’s musical theatre credits include Hairspray!, Rent, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and playing the young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live! – although he lost that job when his voice broke.
He beat more than 4,000 other hopefuls to get his big-break role in Billy Elliot, where he danced intricate ballet routines every night.
He previously trained at the Carol Godby Theatre Workshop in his native Bury and won a scholarship to the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, which also trained former Strictly contestants Pixie Lott and Kelly Brook.
Speaking of the criticism of his ‘unfair advantage’, Williams said: ‘I’ve taken it on the chin, I get what everyone’s saying. But if you could be a fly on the wall in this rehearsal room, it’s not easy for me.’
And in another interview he said his stage experience was not directly relevant to Strictly, insisting: ‘I can’t stress enough how different [Strictly is]… it’s like a plumber trying to be an electrician!’
Other celebrities to have been criticised for having previous dance experience include former Girls Aloud singer Kimberley Walsh, model Abbey Clancy, actress Maisie Smith and singer Fleur East.
STRICTLY COME DANCING 2023: THE CONTESTANTS’ PROFILES
Angela says: ‘Having been a fan of Strictly since day one, and as a former presenter of Come Dancing, this will be quite an adventure for me. A scary one, considering I’m about to be 79. But I’m looking forward to the challenge, and perhaps being able to learn to dance the Argentine Tango.’
Amanda says: ‘I’m thrilled to have been asked to do Strictly. I’m actually really shy and self-conscious so this will be a great opportunity for me to overcome those things.’
Layton says: ‘Absolutely buzzing to confirm that I will be taking part in THE most iconic dance competition in the UK! It’s time to bring it to the Ballroom. So excited to learn new skills from the best. Bring on the sequins… ALL the sequins!’
Krishnan says: ‘I’m surprised, delighted and slightly confused to find myself taking part in Strictly on the basis of ‘You only live once!’ I can’t wait to start learning to dance, but I am slightly worried about my general decrepitude.’
Profession: Comedian and radio presenter
Eddie says: ‘WOW. Anyone who knows me, understands that music and dance is so important and central to who I am. I’m so unbelievably proud and honoured that Strictly and the BBC have asked me to join the 2023 Team. I promise you, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. This is going to be a VIBE.
Profession: TV presenter
Angela says: ‘I’m not particularly fit, I’ve no idea how my pelvic floor is going to react to this dancing. I’ve never done any dances apart from drunken jiving at a wedding!’
Profession: Documentary maker and former Love Island star
Zara says: ‘I am so excited to be joining the world of Strictly! I grew up watching it every year with my nan and she was the biggest Strictly fan. We would dance around the house and I have such fond memories of that time in my life.’
Profession: Actor and presenter
Adam says: ‘I can’t dance to save my life but I’m buzzing to learn and have a good laugh with my pro. Get me on that dance floor…I can’t wait!’
Profession: Coronation Street star
Ellie says: ‘It still doesn’t feel real that I’m going to be doing Strictly!! It’s always been a dream of mine so I guess dreams really do come true!!!!’
Profession: EastEnders star and model
Bobby says: ‘I’m so excited to be part of the Strictly line up, I can’t wait to start training like a professional dancer and adding a few moves to my locker. I’m looking forward to performing in-front of everyone.’
Nigel says: ‘I’m amazed, excited, and terrified to be doing Strictly. As an armchair fan of the show I have watched in awe as people have twirled and gyrated across the screen. And now it’s my turn…..gulp!’
Profession: Broadcaster and ex tennis player
Annabel says: ‘I have always loved watching Strictly and can’t quite believe I’m going to be part of this magical show – swapping tennis balls for glitter balls and looking forward to finding some joyfulness in the process.’
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