As the lights went up on the Him & Me show at Royal & Derngate, dance legends Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice, adorned with face masks, sat nervously on socially distanced seats.
“Is this really happening?” they asked each other, tentatively peering into the crowd.
The scene was a sharply observed reflection of the show’s audience, of which many members were braving their first foray into a packed theatre auditorium since Covid-19 dramatically brought the curtains down on indoor theatres across the country.
But what a way to revisit the joy of theatrical performance – with a glittering, whirling celebration of dance. Soon the face masks were off for Anton and Giovanni and the pair threw themselves into showing their audience just what they had missed.
Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will be familiar with its two famous stars: Anton, the debonair king of ballroom, and Giovanni, a picture-perfect dance dynamo with enough skills to place him in three Strictly finals.
What they will be less familiar with is the rapport between the pair which is, to be honest, more than I was expecting. Beautifully choreographed dance scenes were interspersed with wittily sketched conversations between the two men, lending plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (not least Italian Giovanni’s finely-honed Northampton accent…ahem).
Both Giovanni and Anton are genuinely funny, with one highlight including their mimed dance performance to the song Sisters, while bedecked in wigs, silver dresses and heels (two-for-one at Dorothy Perkins, Anton joked).
The set was a stripped-back nod to theatrical glamour, with a simple art deco style staircase over velvet-curtained doorways, surrounded with lights. But it was a fitting backdrop to a show which twirled viewers through myriad dance styles and eras, beginning with a 30s/40s feel (dance numbers were performed to Happy Feet and In the Mood). By the end of the show we were watching energetic mash-ups to hits including Boogie Wonderland.
What I enjoyed is the fact the troupe of dancers accompanying Anton and Giovanni were very much front of show, alongside its two headline stars. The dancers regularly led the action – with many also giving fine vocal performances and demonstrating scene-stealing talent. Lauren Oakley and Grace Durkin were among those who really shone through with some beautifully expressed dance performances.
* The show took place on Saturday July 24. Visit antonandgiovanni.com for future tour dates.