New Wimbledon Theatre 22nd April 2018.
Guest review by Soraya Scrivener
Following their successful 2017 tour, dancers Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara from Strictly Come Dancing fame return with an extensive UK tour with Remembering Fred, their tribute to the musical film legend Fred Astaire. They are joined by a talented supporting cast of 7 dancers/singers and a live band. This production promises to add to the crowd-pleasing numbers from last year.
An LED screen creates backdrops for the numbers but also shows video clips of the cast to accompany voice recorded quotes from special guests. Interspersed throughout the show, this is a clever way to keep the audience entertained, giving the cast time for quick changes into a phenomenal amount of glamorous costumes designed by Francis Campbell. The light-up staircase is a stylish touch and contributes to the Golden Era feel of the piece.
Musical Director Barnaby Dickenson led the band (sadly names not mentioned in the programme) through The Great American Songbook. From George and Ira Gershwin’s Shall We Dance to Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ On the Ritz it has the diverse dance genres to match. I understand that this a touring production, but the sound set up on this performance left the vocals exposed, and the band rather muted with a slightly underwhelming lack of sparkle. This might also explain why occasionally the dancing, vocals and music were not in sync.
With exciting choreography by the star pair and Director/Choreographer Gareth Walker, the dancers showcase their versatility and artistry from tap to the American Smooth.Husband and wife, Aljaž and Janette’s chemistry is electric, and I believe Len would give them a 10! Highlights for me included their humour in Fine Romance and their passion in Change Partners.
The entire cast has such high energy and a charismatic connection with the audience which delights. Charlie Bruce(Dirty Dancing, So You Think You Can Dance winner) always stands out whenever she is dancing and Alistair Crosswell, an outstanding tapper with Astaire flair has many numbers to shine in. Though the dancing was strong, unfortunately, there were not as many triple threats in the cast as expected and perhaps as Aljaž humbly says himself he should “stick to dancing.”
This production is fun, has a good pace and always plenty to look at. We are reminded of Astaire’s thrilling collaborations with the likes of Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland.
Advertised as their own spin on some classic Fred numbers, I’d be inclined to describe it more as a Fred inspired Strictly show.With that in mind, this is an absolute must-see for Strictly fans.
For Fred Astaire enthusiasts, dancers and the younger generation, it’s still a great evening out and will have you reaching for Astaire soundtracks and box sets.
Remembering Fred continues its’ tour to Chatham, Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Skegness, Scunthorpe, Nottingham, High Wycombe, Carlisle, Perth, Edinburgh, Gateshead, York, Sheffield, Kings Lynn, Lowestoft, Hull, Manchester, Guildford, Cambridge, Bath, Watford, Southend, Bromley, Torquay, Salisbury, Pooleand ending in Portsmouth in May.