Anton and Erin: Swingtime – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Conductor: Richard Balcombe

Reviewer:  James Garrington

Anyone who has ever watched the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing will be familiar with the names of Erin Boag and Anton du Beke. Boag performed in the first ten series of the programme, and du Beke has been a permanent, and very popular, fixture through the entire run.

With a title like Swing Time inevitably much of the evening is up-tempo and high-energy but there is so much more going on here. Mixed in with the fast and furious there is a selection of more traditional ballroom dancing, including a nicely smooth waltz to Moon River and a beautifully elegant Viennese Waltz to the ball sequence from My Fair Lady, music which is seldom heard outside the stage show – and we get taken into the atmosphere of a smoky cabaret club with a sultry Le Jazz Hot and Minnie the Moocher.

Du Beke and Boag are joined on stage by six hard-working ensemble dancers and Strictly Come Dancing regular vocalist Lance Ellington as well as a large orchestra under the baton of Richard Balcombe. Ellington has a silky-smooth voice ideally suited to singing the swing music which makes up a lot of the evening – and he doesn’t get pushed into the background either, with a number of solo spots including one of the highlights, a powerful This is the Moment.

Ellington isn’t alone in the singing department – du Beke also exercises his vocal chords on a number of occasions revealing a very listenable voice that already will be familiar to many. He shows off his song-and-dance skills with I Wanna Be a Dancing Man, a number made famous by Fred Astaire who du Beke names as one of his idols along with Bruce Forsyth – and there are definite similarities between du Beke and Forsyth in his younger days. Ellington also finds himself dragged into the dance routines from time to time. There’s a well put-together What a Swell Party with du Beke and a surprising trio, Together Wherever We Go which also includes Boag – who reveals a very passable vocal herself.

A highlight for many is the regular Q &A section, where audience members get to put questions. A few of them actually get answered, but as much as anything it is an excuse for du Beke to launch in a series of funny anecdotes, with Boag in the role of the straight man feeding him the lines and adding her own witty comments. The couple has worked together for so long that it all seems very relaxed and natural and often spontaneous, and du Beke comes across as a born entertainer.

Performing fast and lively dance routines within the limited confines of a concert hall stage isn’t easy, but the dancers manage it well – although one particularly energetic swing did leave Boag perching perilously near the edge of the stage at one point during the evening – an incident which paved the way for more banter.

It’s all very lively and colourful with – literally – a truck-load of costumes helping to create a spectacular event. As the evening finishes with an encore of I Got Rhythm, du Beke and Boag prove that rhythm is something they have in abundance – along with elegance, style and wit, providing a good evening’s entertainment.

Reviewed on 28 January 2017 | Image: Contributed

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They Got Rhythm!

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