Remembering the Movies: starring Aljaz and Janette
**** (4 stars)
Lights! Camera! Action! introduces a total crowd-pleaser, which was given a rapturous reception and standing ovation by an obviously partisan crowd who wanted to join the love-fest that surrounds Aljaz and Janette from Strictly… Following their previous tour celebrating Fred and Ginger we were taken on an all-too brief progress through some of the iconic dance routines from films going back to black-and-white movie days and coming right up to the present with La La Land and The Greatest Showman.
Linking the various sections – Welcome to Hollywood, Leading Men, Leading Ladies, etc – there was a lot of delightful chatting across the footlights, with references to personal history and of course the Strictly phenomenon, continuing the ‘we love it all and it’s such a privilege to be able to dance for you tonight…’. Both Aljaz and Janette do a wonderful job of talking to us as though we are their best friends and they are delighted to see us – making us feel that we ‘meet’ them as human beings as well as dance god and goddess…
Two singers – the incredible Janine Johnson and pretty amazing Damien Edwards -brought the otherwise pre-recorded soundtrack to dynamic life, giving voice to a huge range of emotions, setting the scene, creating the contrast, and giving the dancers something live with which to work: I can’t see the show having the same effect if the whole musical score were pre-recorded. The bass and rhythm sections were at times painfully loud, so I spent a fair amount of time with my fingers stuffed in my ears, but this didn’t seem to upset anyone else…
There was an impressive cast of young supporting dancers, and a special cheer for the tall Scottish dance captain Martin Fenton. I couldn’t help noticing the blond dreadlocks of Aussie Steve Williams, and the differing characters and skills of the other dancers. I really appreciated the explanation for Aljaz partnering Ash-Leigh Hunter for waltz numbers – she is tall, Janette is tiny – and we were given an impressive demonstration of why he doesn’t normally do ballroom with Janette: either he has to dance on his knees, or pick her up and carry her – lovely frame, darling but no footwork! The dancers were all extremely talented but as yet don’t stand out the way Aljaz and Janette did, especially when they danced together.
There was a good selection of musical movies past and present – I got somewhat lost in the ‘modern’ section, having to guess the movie from the projected backgrounds, but was completely at home in the ‘classics’. There were some beautiful moments, especially a Romeo and Juliet duet, lively moments from West Side Story and what I think was my favourite – Marilyn’s Diamonds are a girl’s best friend morphing into Madonna’s material girl before returning to my all-time favourite Ms Monroe… Each half ended with spectacular ensembles and opportunities for the young chorus dancers to strut their individual stuff – but I found their show-off ‘modern’ sections lost me a little – everyone was doing their own thing with no relation to anyone else on stage: mirroring modern life, eh? There was some splendid choreography, very effective lighting, fabulous and rapid costume changes and a lot of interplay between the two stars.
Remembering the Movies showcases extremely impressive dancing – and, of course, all performed live. It’s hugely entertaining, and was loved by every person present. It’s good to remind younger generations about the people who broke new ground in entertainment and inspired dancers working today, and give them a sense of the history of musical numbers in the movies. It was thoroughly good, crowd-pleasing entertainment, excellently produced and presented: you should have been there!
Remembering the Movies: starring Aljaz and Janette, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, RUN ENDED
Review by Mary Woodward