After reviewing the wonderful Him & Me last year – headlined by Strictly Come Dancing‘s Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice – I jumped at the chance of covering another Strictly Theatre Company show.
This Is Me is headlined solely by Giovanni, supported by a tremendous troupe of dazzling dancers.
Prior to the show, I got the chance to meet Giovanni. He repeatedly complemented my style; in fact, it’s the first thing he said to me – before I even told him I was reviewing the show. Whilst his lovely compliments wooed me, there really was no need, for This Is Me offered some of the best dancing I’ve ever seen onstage (and sorry, Anton, but it’s even better than Him & Me).
Him & Me was fabulous, but it lacked consistency, jumping from setting to setting. Granted, that was part of its charm; it offered so much, both style and substance, transporting audiences around the globe and throughout history. This Is Me, however, felt more grounded and straightforward. It was very much the Giovanni show; it was a dramatic insight into his wonderful world. The clue is in the name…
Without a doubt, the best section of the show was the Queen tribute. Giovanni professed his love for Freddie Mercury; this section was his way of addressing how big an inspiration the iconic rocker has been on him as a performer. Whilst Queen songs are not difficult to sing, per se, but rather difficult to sing well – if only because Mercury’s voice was one in a million – the vocalists did a pretty good job. Whitney Martins, especially, with her Christina Aguilera-like roar, owned the legendary bangers.
Before the Queen section came to an end, Giovanni told the audience that this is the part of the show where he would usually get a lady onstage, but Covid has made this impossible. He then relented but decided to mix things up: instead of bringing a woman onstage, he would bring a man!
The man he brought up onstage appeared to be both worried and excited. Giovanni then left the stage, before three male dancers came on, dressed in women’s dresses as ‘I Want to Break Free’ played. We knew what was coming next: Giovanni was going to be donning Mercury’s iconic costume from the video!
Sure enough, he did just that, before smothering the man he’d brought onstage. Some people in the audience found it funny; I actually thought it was kinda hot, but hey…
Another brilliant section was the mirror scene. Giovanni did a solo dance – the show is called This Is Me, after all – to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ (shameless plug – check out the interview I did with Glenn Ballard, the 6 x Grammy winner who co -wrote the song). Two mirrors were placed onstage, which was not quite corny but definitely a little on the nose, but it worked. The show was shamelessly camp, and this was just a continuation of that.
The mirrors worked wonderfully for the dance that followed, in which Giovanni was joined by Lauren Oakley, the show’s principal dancer (and Giovanni’s leading lady in Him & Me). Whilst the show had Giovanni’s name on it, he was competing for the spotlight with Lauren. Whilst the entire troupe was excellent, she was a cut above the rest, dazzling and mesmerising the entire audience every time she took to the stage. Perhaps we’ll see her as a professional dancer on Strictly someday (she previously took part in Strictly‘s Musical Week, 2019).
Another highlight of the show was the signer. Having won the show with Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf, last year, Giovanni has become committed to the cause. The signer was incredible; at times, I found myself watching her, and I can’t even read sign language! She shaked and shimmied the entire show, and she even had costume changes, each costume more glamorous than the last. Her inclusion was the cherry on top.
The show’s final performance was a group dance to Keala Settle’s ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman. After all, it shares its name with this tour. The performance began with the two vocalists – Tobias Turley and the aforementioned Whitney Martins – stood behind Giovanni. As they sang, he began signing. Before the first chorus began, the signer came back onstage and took over so that Giovanni could focus on his dancing. Giovanni’s decision to sign was touching and inspiring; I imagine it meant a lot to deaf audience members, some of whom were sat close to me.
Several Strictly stars are on tour at the moment. This coming Sunday, I’m seeing Remembering the Oscars, starring husband and wife Aljaź and Janette, also at the beautiful Bridgewater Hall. I’m sure all the shows are a joy to watch, but if you go to see anyone, see Giovanni. I’ve seen lots of dance, and I can honestly say that This Is Me offers some of the best dancing you’ll ever see onstage. The show is fun, sexy and heart-warming. Giovanni has the most spectacular stage presence, captivating audiences whether he’s dancing, singing, signing, or talking – or just stood there… topless.
Giovanni Pernice’s This is Me continues its UK tour until the end of May. When the tour wraps, Pernice will continue the Him & Me tour, with Anton Du Beke, in June and July – returning to the the Lowry (Lyric Theatre) on 26th June. After a break from touring – and the next series of Strictly – Pernice will take his brand-new Made in Italy tour on the road, from January to May 2023 – playing at the Lowry (Lyric Theatre) on 27th January.
For more Giovanni Pernice content, check out the review we did of Him & Me last year. For more Strictly content, check out our review of Strictly Theatre Company’s Burn The Floor (starring Kevin Clifton) and our interview with Johannes Radebe.