Strictly comes home to let Blackpool entertain you!

Jonnie Peacock and Oti Mabuse at the Tower Ballroom
Jonnie Peacock and Oti Mabuse at the Tower Ballroom

If ever there could ever have been any doubt about Blackpool's place at the heart of Strictly Come Dancing - this year's opening number sent a clear message.

From nostalgic sepia films of Blackpool's formative days as a Victorian leisure town through to a swirling circus top of daring dance, the hit TV's resort outing burst on to screens with enough electricity to power the Illuminations.

There was a stilt walker, unicycle rider, jugglers and a fire dancer, and actor Joe McFadden brought the piece to life in glorious technicolour crying out: "Welcome to the most spectacular show on earth!"

With a perfectly selected soundtrack to the opening routine - Rita Ora and Sigma's recent hit Coming Home and Robbie Williams' favourite Let Me Entertain You: In the home of ballroom and the northern capital of entertainment, what could be more appropriate?

The opening dance was preceded by a montage of Blackpool's sights - the Winter Gardens, Funny Girls, the Comedy Carpet, trams, with the celebrity dancers building up the excitement in a voice over.

"The Tower Ballroom Blackpool, this is one of the most famous ballrooms in the world."

Davood Ghadami parachutes in at the Tower Ballroom

Davood Ghadami parachutes in at the Tower Ballroom

"This place is incredible.

"Dreams have been made and shattered here."

Already, not even five minutes in, and the 2017 Strictly broadcast as Blackpool's money can't buy exposure has done its job.

The Strictly Blackpool special was watched by a peak audience of 11.4 million viewers, an average of 10.7 million and a 49per cent share of viewers.

Gemma and Aljaz at the Tower Ballroom

Gemma and Aljaz at the Tower Ballroom

Although the celebrity dancers and their professional partners perhaps failed to reach the high scoring standards of previous years' Blackpool specials, where the judges hand out nines and 10s like sweets, there was still plenty to delight both the live audience within the Tower Ballroom and the millions of people watching at home.

The Tower Ballroom dazzled in all it's splendour, made all the more glorious thanks to the additional chandeliers, multiple glitterballs and hundreds of lights all perfectly aligned to showcase this most beautiful of settings.

Opening the show, The Saturdays singer Mollie King and partner AJ Pritchard had an awkward song choice for the Charleston, in Little Mix's anthemic pop hit Wings. Mollie looked like an angel and completed hugely daring lifts with great confidence, but the overall quirky, comic element expecting in a Charleston was lost thanks to the music, despite the dancers' best efforts.

After receiving their comments from judges Shirley Ballas, Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli, Blackpool town crier Barry McQueen was introduced to the nation, for what did become a bit of uncomfortable viewing, as comedian Peter Kay appeared.

Joe McFadden and Katya Jones at the Tower Ballroom

Joe McFadden and Katya Jones at the Tower Ballroom

Supposedly booked to introduce the voting terms and conditions, it all got a bit awkward when he took over with an opportunity to plug his own tour.

Comedian Susan Calman and partner Kevin Clifton lived out his childhood dream with a paso doble inspired by the film Strictly Ballroom - cheered on JK Rowling, an amazing addition to the audience's star spotting opportunities. Eagle eyed viewers may also have also spotted Blackpool's own Maureen Nolan in the audience.

Then Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice attempted to roll back the years and bring some girl power with a Spice Girls samba. Sadly, the theming, costume - including a horrific wig, and routine failed to showcase any of Debbie's strengths as a dancer, and it all just seemed a bit wrong and scored a surprisingly high 33.

Next up with a techno tango were Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock and Oti Mabuse, before Lancashire lass actress and DJ Gemma Atkinson took to the floor with partner Aljaz Skorjanec and the show finally came to life.

They took a trip along the Lights in a tram as part of their introduction, and then had a Blackpool themed stage set for their American smooth foxtrot. Everything came together almost perfectly for them, and Gemma picked up her highest score to date and her first 10s, much to the delight of the Tower Ballroom audience.

The pace picked up considerably from here on in: Davood Ghadami's Bond-inspired paso doble was strong and continued his progression from recent weeks, before Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez once more knocked most of the competition out of the water with their 42nd Street quickstep. Alex dazzled like a 40s film star, with a lightness and fun which isn't often seen from this fierce lady, and picked up 39 points for her efforts - only Craig not scoring her 10, claimed there was some gapping in their hold.

Mollie King  at the Tower Ballroom

Mollie King at the Tower Ballroom

Closing the show, Holby City actor Joe McFadden had another horror costume, but his salsa with Katya Jones was daredevil and full on fun in our own party town.

Behind the scenes and away from the cameras, the crew keep the live broadcast racing along - It's fascinating to see the logistical operation in full swing.

I bet the three crew members who ended up 'swimming' across the ballroom floor to gather up streamers, laid on their bellies to avoid being seen in the background of a shot, never expected that would be part of their job when they signed up to TV's most glamourous programme!

And only in Blackpool could you ever imagine seeing Peter Kay reclined on the floor at JK Rowling's feet, while Sir Lenny Henry and Graham Norton look on.

Alexandra topped the leaderboard with her 39. followed by Gemma's 38.

Bottom of the board with 25 was Susan and Kevin, and Jonnie and Oti with 26.

Tune in tonight, 7.15pm, for the results show, featuring performances from Blackpool and Fleetwood's own Alfie Boe with Michael Ball and Tears For Fears, as well as a Northern Soul-inspired group dance.

Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Shirley Ballas and Bruno Tonioli give their scores at the Tower Ballroom

Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Shirley Ballas and Bruno Tonioli give their scores at the Tower Ballroom

The circus themed opening number at the Tower Ballroom

The circus themed opening number at the Tower Ballroom

Ready for the off, the couples line up at the start of the show

Ready for the off, the couples line up at the start of the show

Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez at the Tower Ballroom

Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez at the Tower Ballroom

Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton at the Tower Ballroom

Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton at the Tower Ballroom

Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice at the Tower Ballroom

Debbie McGee and Giovanni Pernice at the Tower Ballroom