I set out to do several things when I took over the Theatre section back in 2019: expand our coverage, increase our number of interviews.
Something I did not set out to do was transform it into a Strictly fan forum, but I’m sure proud that I’ve done just that!
Our latest Strictly show is Remembering The Oscars, starring former Strictly stars (and husband-and-wife duo) Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara. Janette left Strictly Come Dancing in 2021, to become the new presenter on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, whilst Aljaž recently announced that he, too, was leaving the show. It was beautiful to see them live onstage after that sad news.
Remembering The Oscars is the follow-up to the couple’s last tour, Remembering The Movies. The show is a celebration of Oscar-winning movies – and a few movies that did not get the award.
Aljaž and Janette were joined by a group of wonderful dancers, including Aljaž’ and Janette’s respective dance partners, Ash-Leigh Hunter (dance captain) and Robbie Metoni. The cast was completed with two singers, Janine Johnson and Richard Woodford. Unlike Strictly Theatre Co shows, where the singers are also professional dancers, Johnson and Woodford were mainly just vocalists – though they did join in with a little dancing. Woodford’s singing was deep and enchanting, whilst Johnson blew me away with her powerful vocals.
The stage was pretty simple, with a horizontal screen at the back of the stage and four vertical screens – two at each side of the stage, working as the wings. The show had great visuals, especially the prerecorded content of Aljaž and Janette recreating iconic scenes from classic movies, that complimented the onstage dancing.
The show began with “Opening Ceremony”, which saw the cast and singers blitz through a great number of Oscar-winning movies. It was incredible how they managed to ram so many in. It was a fabulous, exciting introduction to the show.
This was followed by “Best Actor”, with tributes to Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Don Corleone in The Godfather and Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. The former was a beautiful, slow dance featuring Aljaž and Ash-Leigh, whilst the latter was a group routine. The show made great use of contrasts, never letting us experience one feeling for too long.
Next up was “Best Actress”. Aljaž professed his love for Madonna’s Oscar-nominated performance of Eva Perón in Evita. Whilst she did not win the Academy Award, Aljaž reminded us that she won the Golden Globe, and ‘You Must Love Me’ won Best Original Song at the Oscars.
This section began with Janine singing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl, giving Barbra Streisand a run for her money. Aljaž and Ash-Leigh then danced to two songs from Evita – ‘You Must Love Me’ and the legendary ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ – before Janette and Robbie lead a routine honouring Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance as Nina Sayers in Black Swan. Janette’s movement in this segment was freakish and sublime. I enjoyed the prerecorded video of her mimicking Portman’s performance that accompanied the dance routine; it really added to the drama.
The last section before the interval was “Best Choreography”. The Academy Award for Best Dance Direction only existed from 1936-1938, but Aljaž and Janette wanted to honour some choreography that they think deserve Oscar recognition. The set began with An American in Paris, before going on to Carousel, 42nd Street, La La Land, Singin’ in the Rain, and ending with All That Jazz. There were two songs in the All That Jazz section. The latter was ‘All That Jazz’ from Chicago (sung by Janette). I’m not sure what the first song was – it could have very well been a song from the musical film All That Jazz. I’ll never know…
Aljaž ended the Singin’ in the Rain dance by joking, “It never rains in Manchester”, to laughter from the audience. Aljaž and Janette aren’t just beautiful and talented; they’re also very funny – even if the humour is often in the form of dad jokes.
The second act opened with the best section of the night: “The Magic of Disney” – and, oh, was it magical. The longest section of the night (obviously), it covered Pinocchio, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Lion King (Janine’s vocals really shone here), Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin (Woodford showed off his moves in ‘A Friend Like Me’), Frozen, and Mary Poppins. The costumes in this section were pretty spectacular, especially Janine’s glittery coat-dress when she sang ‘Let It Go’.
This was followed by the biggest award of the night: “Best Picture”. Three very different movies were honoured: Oliver, Scent of a Woman, and Slumdog Millionaire. Aljaž and Janette’s Argentine tango for Scent was fiery, passionate and visually orgasmic.
Titanic and Schinder’s List were chosen to represent “Best Score”. The singers delivered a powerful rendition of Celine Dion’s iconic ‘My Heart Will Go On’. The second dance was particularly touching; Janette and Robbie created a real emotional ambience with their bodies, as they danced to an instrumental piece of music.
The final section of the night was “Celebrating Dance Movies”. The chosen films were Guys & Dolls, West Side Story (which allowed Janette to embrace her Latin roots and remind us that she is just as good with fast dances), Fame, Footloose, and Happy Feet!
The show ended with ‘One’ from A Chorus Line – a fabulous, extravagant end to a wonderful evening of music and dance.
The show is camp and chaotic, jumping from one film to another, barely giving audiences the chance to recover from the last dance – and that’s what makes it so fun!
Remembering The Oscars continues its UK tour until early May – playing in Portsmouth on 30th April before finishing its run with a residency in London.
Sister Act, the stage musical based on the film of the same name, begins its UK tour at Palace Theatre Manchester – ahead of a London run – starring Jennifer Saunders, Keala Settle, Lesley Joseph, Clive Rowe MBE, Lizzie Bea and Sandra Marvin