Conductor: Richard Balcombe
Director and Choreographer: Nikki Woollaston
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
There can be few people not familiar with Anton and Erin – Anton du Beke and Erin Boag, professional dancers and mainstay of many Strictly Come Dancing series. On TV, they both impress with their skills and affable manner. Anton’s annual struggle with his partners is always entertaining. So there was a packed house at Symphony Hall including people of all ages anticipating some pretty special footwork and chat.
A glance at the set list in the programme shows it has been culled from the golden age of the movie musical, with pieces from High Society, The Merry Widow, Call Me Madam and many others. With composers like Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim and George Gershwin represented, the list of songs would stand up as a concert in its own right. Tonight’s orchestra, The London Concert Orchestra, is pared down from its usual size – platform space is needed for the dancing, after all – but, while there might be a small loss in depth of sound from the strings, the effect remains pleasing and they can still fill the glorious Symphony Hall with sound, as they prove with the orchestral numbers that open each half, The overture from Gypsy, and after the interval, a Gershwin medley. Throughout, conductor Richard Balcombe engenders a feeling of swing and sway to the proceedings with his low key conducting style.
But the stars of the evening, of course, are Anton and Erin. We first meet them for Something to Dance About, which also serves to introduce tonight’s guest vocalist, Lance Ellington and the team of six supporting dancers. This piece allows the dancers all to show off their skills in a variety of genres and tempos, with the trademark light and smooth flowing elegance that we occasionally get glimpses of during Strictly. Ellington has an easy manner, a smooth crooning voice that he is able to adapt from, for example, the romance of True Love, to the jazzier Now You Has Jazz.
Highlights of the dance numbers include That’s Entertainment, which also includes the use of hoops, ribbons and fans in its spectacular choreography and Anton and Erin dressed in shabby chic for We’re a Couple of Swells. And in each half there are well judged sections where they speak directly to the audience about their experiences. So we hear about the trials and tribulations of teaching celebrities like Judy Murray and Kate Garraway, for example – maybe sanitised, but a charming insight. In the second half, they respond to questions from the audience in which their easy wit, and Anton’s slightly naughty schoolboy persona come to the fore as they build a quick and close rapport with the audience.
But there are surprises too – in another age, both Anton and Erin could have made a decent living as a music hall song-and-dance act. There are several times during the evening that they sing – really sing, not talk through a song – with Erin showing a very good voice indeed in, for example, The Trolley Song, and Anton showing his own pleasing tones in I Can’t Be Bothered Now. Indeed, everyone seems to have a secret talent as vocalist Ellington also takes a turn on trombone in Now You has Jazz.
The title of this evening’s show is That’s Entertainment and that is what is delivered – pure, timeless, skilful, multitalented undemanding entertainment. A gem of a show.
Reviewed on 14th February and on tour