Skip to main content

30th January 2023

Review: Giovanni Pernice – Made in Italy

Giovanni Pernice returns to The Lowry with Made in Italy – which allowed him to show off his comedy as much as his dancing
Review: Giovanni Pernice – Made in Italy
Photo: Lisa Hornall

Giovanni Pernice is probably the most popular dancer on Strictly Come Dancing – ever. He recently reached a million followers on Instagram, the first Strictly dancer to reach that milestone. The Italian stallion is a real triple threat: he can sing, he can dance, and he’s smouldering hot. But he’s also incredibly likeable, by virtue of having barrels of personality, a great sense of humour, and not taking himself too seriously. It’s because of all this that he is able to tour the UK every year, visiting scores of cities and towns around the country, selling most of them out.


Giovanni the Italian

Giovanni’s latest tour is the aptly titled Made in Italy. Like Johannes Radebe: Freedom and Oti Mabuse: I Am Here, both of which followed the dancers journeying back to their home country of South Africa through dance, Made in Italy is a celebration of Pernice’s home country.

Before the show began, there was a little pre-show, with the company onstage, pretending to be citizens of a picturesque Italian town. It was a lovely, tranquil introduction to the show which smoothly and successfully transported us to the setting. The first number was a lively tribute to La La Land, with the cast singing ‘Another Day of Sun’. It felt a little off-brand and out-of-place because La La Land is explicitly LA, but that thought was merely in the back of my mind; the dancing was sublime, and I longed to escape Salford in favour of this fun, wacky LA-Sicily hybrid.

Giovanni Pernice, Lauren Oakley and the company. Photo: Lisa Hornall

The incredible cast included Lauren Oakley, who has been the principal dancer and leading lady on Giovanni’s previous two tours. This tour actually gave her a promotion of sorts: “Starring Giovanni Pernice with Lauren Oakley”.

Whilst watching Giovanni’s previous tour, This is Me, my mother and I said we would not be surprised if Oakley ended up on Strictly. Sure enough, she became a professional dancer last year, and whilst she has not yet been told if she is being rehired, we hope she is not only rehired but actually gets a partner this year. She’s one of the most striking dancers you’ll ever see though I felt that the previous tour allowed her to shine a little more.

Pasquale La Rocca and the company. Photo: Lisa Hornall

The cast also included the remarkable Pasquale La Rocca, who has won every single series of Dancing With the Stars he has competed in: Belgium, Ireland (twice), and Italy. He’s also a Guinness World Record Holder.

Michelle Andrews and the company. Photo: Lisa Hornall

Whilst the show featured several singers, the main singer was a bobbed beauty with vivacious vocals; she clearly had a background in musical theatre. I thought I recognised her, and I also thought, “She’d be brilliant as Velma in Chicago“. After the show, I checked the programme and realised that it was Michelle Andrews, who I had previously seen in Anton and Giovanni’s Him & Me and… as Velma in Chicago!


Giovanni the (straight) Queer icon

Later in the first act, Giovanni had Michelle find a man in the audience to bring onstage. He had done this at his previous solo tour, which was prior to his same-sex pairing on Strictly last year. (Giovanni actually addressed rumours that he and Richie Anderson did not get on and that he was leaving Strictly: neither are true).

The unsuspecting male audience member was sat down and had three female dancers flaunt themselves around him, before Giovanni appeared at the back of the stage in female clothing, a wig, and high heels, to laughter from the audience – but the male audience member had absolutely no idea. Giovanni then crept up on him and caressed him, and the guy was still none the wiser. When he eventually caught a glimpse of Giovanni, his reaction was priceless, and both guys rolled with it.

I love how open to drag and same-sex partnerships Giovanni is. At his last tour, he did a tribute to Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’, and who can forget the fabulous Priscilla Queen of the Desert tribute on Strictly a few years back? The dance received around 150 official complaints from viewers, with countless angry Karens, Kevins, Gavins, and gammons on Twitter.

Not-so fun fact: The Priscilla dance actually received less complaints than the all-male dance between Johannes Radebe and Graziano di Prima (during an Emeli Sandé performance) the year prior. Weirdly, people appeared less bothered by Strictly’s first same-sex dance with Gorka Marquez and AJ Pritchard. Haters are so inconsistent!

Giovanni Pernice and the company. Photo: Lisa Hornall

But Giovanni has not let these narrow-minded trolls dictate his creativity. On the contrary!

The second act saw Giovanni dance with another guy, both of them wearing pristine white suits. He also quoted his “good friend” RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Then there was the ‘camp-tastic’ vogue dance, with Giovanni once again in heels, to Lucian Piane and Myah Marie’s ‘Legs’. I could not believe that they were dancing to that song. I was singing along whilst all the straight-as-a-ruler (not the bendy kind) oldies around me had no idea what was going on but went with it and loved it!

This dance was presumably a nod to Giovanni’s Strictly partnership with RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage (the pair were scandalously sent home following their vogue dance). Giovanni is clearly influenced by his partners; his last tour, following his win with deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, saw him have a go at sign language, and many of his shows continue to feature BSL interpreters, including this one.

Giovanni Pernice and the company. Photo: Lisa Hornall

Perhaps the best dance of the show, however, was the one that ended the first act: ‘Greased Lightning’. Giovanni and his troupe took us on one helluva ride!


Giovanni the comedian

The show was also very funny. Giovanni is something of a comedian. When Michelle brought a male audience member onstage, he told him to step into the light because “the people want to see me”. He later said, “If the show is successful, it’s because of me,” and after complaining that he is on tour until May, he said, “But it’s okay ’cause I’m making lots of memories”.

He also had a lovely, funny chat with lead dancer Lauren Oakley. Lauren joked that her favourite thing about Strictly was seeing Giovanni every Saturday and Sunday, to which Giovanni outright admitted that the Sunday shows are prerecorded on Saturdays – Tess and Claudia are lying!

Lauren Oakley and Giovanni Pernice. Photo: Lisa Hornall

Then, Giovanni told us that there was a Strictly finalist in the audience: Gorka Marquez, who was sat right next to me (press and invited guests are always sat together; at Sierra Boggess’ concert, I was sat next to her mother!). I first met Gorka five years ago, alongside his wife, Gemma Atkinson, and fellow Strictly stars (and husband-wife duo) Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara. Like all the Strictly stars I’ve met (including Giovanni), they were lovely.

Whilst Giovanni called Gorka his “brother” and told him he loved him, he pretended to be jealous of the love the audience was giving him. “It’s my show,” he insisted. “No, you can turn the [house] lights off; it’s done.”

Gorka had deliberately come into the auditorium a little late, wearing joggers and a hoodie. The annoyed women at the other side of him had refused to stand for him, unaware that it was him. A short while later, I turned my head and immediately recognised him (I work in entertainment, I’m very celeb-aware), but everybody else was oblivious until two women recognised him during the interval – and after that, the poor guy was hounded by women wanting selfies.

At the end of the interval, he relented and began waving at the entire audience. I told him that his hoodie disguise did not work. He lamented that he should have worn black and that having his hood up only made it more obvious that he was trying to hide. As the second act began, Madison and I had a crazed fan crawling on top of us, determined to get a selfie with Gorka. He told her to wait until the end of the show but she outright refused. You can only respect that level of determination!

Gorka unsurprisingly left before the show ended, knowing he’d be stuck there forever if he did not.

It was in that moment, I realised: being famous kinda sucks.

But, whilst he had to deal with scores of fans, Gorka clearly had a ball watching his friend Giovanni in action – as did the entire audience. Giovanni and his troupe brought us all to our feet at the end of the show (even ripping open his shirt as a physical “thank you, thank you, thank you”).


Made in Italy tours the UK until May 7. A limited number of VIP Meet and Greet tickets are available at each venue.

Him & Me, which Giovanni stars in alongside Anton Du Beke, tours the UK for a third time from June 29 to July 30, with two shows at The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) on July 16 (the matinee has a BSL interpreter).

Strictly Theatre Co have announced that Giovanni will be touring the UK, once again, next year!

In the meantime, check out our reviews of Giovanni’s previous shows, Him & Me and This is Me, as well as fellow Strictly Theatre Co. show Burn the Floor (starring Kevin Clifton).

Be sure to check out our other Strictly content too.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

More Coverage

My Beautiful Laundrette review: Nationalism, racial tensions, and political turmoil

Lacking a fresh political perspective, entertaining with classic tunes and compelling design, My Beautiful Laundrette takes stage at The Lowry

Come From Away press launch: A community show for Christmas

A special preview of The Lowry’s non-Christmassy Christmas show inspired by remarkable true events from 9/11

Brilliantly slick and thoroughly enjoyable: UMMTS ‘Alice by Heart’ review

You would have to be mad as a Hatter to not enjoy this Wonder-ful performance by UMMTS

Imitating the Dog’s Frankenstein review: A literally electric reimagination

Imitating the Dog creates a physical and electric reimagination of Shelley’s story, filling any pockets of confusion with drama and tension