It’s a well known fact that during WW2 our courageous troops had their spirits and morale boosted on a regular basis by the Entertainments National Service Association… and last night, at Ipswich Regent Theatre, the dynamic dance moves of Striclty favourites Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice provided a much missed dose of the same to an audience which was practically buzzing with anticipation!
After a 16 month hiatus for The Regent (the last dance show I saw there was the fabulous Firedance with Karen & Gorka in March 2020) it was an absolute joy to be welcomed back (quite literally, as Simon the manager was out on the front steps, cheerily greeting the audience) and into this magnificent theatre.
Interestingly enough, the show opened on a 1940s / wartime theme, with both Anton (who we could all quite easily believe was dear old Bruce Forsythe’s long lost son) and Giovanni taking a turn at singing (and it turns, out, they can hold a tune!) so we were treated to a couple of slower songs to soothe us gently in…. A great rendition of ‘Nice and Easy’ followed by ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ which revved the pace up a gear or two and afforded us a fabulous quickstep/foxtrot which was performed by both our male leads and the eight exemplary chorus dancers of four of each ladies and guys.
The audience were clearly loving the glitz and glamour of the songs, dancing and incredible costumes… and we were all soon toe tapping and clapping away to another quickstep which shifted smoothly to a Charleston along to the great sounds of the band giving us ‘Happy Feet’ swiftly followed by ‘The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’, I swear there was a smiling face in the audience (even behind a mask, we can still tell there’s smile!)
Anton and Giovanni took a little breather before returning to delight us with their Strictly Sisters drag Queen duet (yes ladies, Giovanni does have a good set of pins!) before getting down to more serious stuff when the four ladies thrilled us with their tap dancing skills to a fabulous accapella version of ‘In the Mood’ and the scene shifted to a very ‘Chicago’ feel with a sublime quickstep and Charleston from both Anton and Giovanni and their respective partners to close the first half of the show.
The second half opened with a very dramatic flamenco / paso doble / tango which saw both our stars going head to head to win the heart of a lady and the storyline then fell into a passionate rumba for Giovanni (who was the winner of the heart) and the aforementioned lady….before the mood took yet another turn and we were treated to an uplifting mix of salsa, samba and merengue to some wonderful Latin sounds.
Throughout the entire show it was clear to see that they were absolutely thrilled to be back on stage and doing what they do best – entertaining their audience. Anton especially was a super host as he engaged frequently with the audience with witty one-liners and stories of his ‘interesting’ partnerships on the long running family favourite TV show which is Strictly Come Dancing.
At one point, he even joked ‘I was so far back in the group dances I was usually able to have a chat with Dave Arch’! And we even had the honour of an on-stage visit from his legendary partner from series eight – the formidable Anne Widdecombe. Thankfully she was only in a cardboard cut-out form, so no toe-curling routines were endured last night!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and after a beautiful traditional Viennese waltz from Anton and Michelle (who I must also point out, has the voice any west end star would be proud of) we enjoyed the last few dances of the show with a jaw-dropping jive to Bruno Mars’ ‘Runaway Baby’ from the swift footed Giovanni and partner, before the whole cast literally had us up on our feet for a show-stopping, foot tapping, bottom wiggling, hand-clapping rendition of that 70s disco classic, Boogie Wonderland.
As shows go, this one had bags of Boogie and wicked amounts of Wonderland.
As audiences go, I’ve never seen so many people looking so happy (well, not in the last 14 months at least!)
As the ‘Forces Sweetheart’ Dame Vera Lynn would’ve sung…. We’ll Meet Again….. and hopefully next time will be much sooner!