Anton Du Beke, Erin Boag, Chris Marques, Jaclyn Spencer, Faye Huddleston, Ivana Ostrowski, Tanya Perera, Emma Slater, Rafal Lautenbach, Stephen Vincent, Gary Wright, Julian Tocker, Richard Shelton
I know it sounds churlish, but if the show is to be called Anton and Erin: Cheek to Cheek, shouldn’t those two individuals grace the stage just a little more often?
I realise the evening was meant to be a ‘celebration of everything that’s great in music and dance’, and it was good that it allowed a variety of artists to shine.
But when just as many numbers were led by the singer, Richard Shelton, as by Anton De Beke and Erin Boag, the professional dancers in six series of Strictly Come Dancing, the billing of their names seemed to have less to do with the show’s focus than with the selling of tickets.
And the problem ran deeper than this. Cheek to Cheek, the touring show that hit the London Coliseum this week for its 2009 spring dance season, features a series of numbers that incorporate song and dance.
But with the programme consisting entirely of such clich-ridden hits as Come Fly with Me, Fly Me to the Moon and Luck Be A Lady, the concept did not seem to extend beyond throwing together a few pot boilers and calling it a show.
Happily, the evening still contained enough of interest to win me over to an extent. The dances on offer covered a variety of styles including Waltz, Quickstep, Rumba, Cha-Cha-Cha and Salsa. As a rule, Anton and Erin took on the slower dances, and, free from sub-standard partners, marks out of ten and Bruce Forsyth’s interjections, proved just what accomplished and slick movers they really are.
But in the first half there was something almost too smooth about their turns, which prevented the two from generating excitement in the audience. As a result, their jokes about their time on Strictly Come Dancing, which were fairly basic but could have worked had the spectators been livelier, fell rather flat.
It meant, however, that the pair provided an effective contrast to the evening’s ‘second couple’, Chris Marques and Jaclyn Spencer. Three times World Salsa champions, their flashy and seductive style was highly engaging, and their performance of O Fortuna from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana a real highlight of the evening. They certainly did whip up the audience, and it was also interesting to contrast their own style with that of De Beke and Boag as all four danced to Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek.
Richard Shelton, who has played Sinatra in Rat Pack Confidential, nailed several songs with his good old-fashioned voice and style, and given his overall contribution to the evening deserved a more prominent billing than he got. The evening’s big band sound was generated by the London Concert Orchestra, under the baton of Gavin Sutherland, which in numbers such as Tommy Dorsey’s Opus One proved why it is so much in demand.
Overall, the evening felt good humoured and well intentioned enough, and, of course, the Coliseum was actually founded in 1904 as the ‘people’s palace of entertainment’ (to cover variety and music hall). It is therefore right that popular dancing should feature there, and if the hosting of Cheek to Cheek can help to establish a base audience for this genre that will enable the Coliseum to be more adventurous in its future programming of such events, then that is all to the good.
On the night, however, it was those numbers that also introduced a ‘chorus’ of eight dancers that came off best. Swirling around Shelton as he gave a highly innovative rendition of My Way, and so obviously enjoying themselves in the Finale, It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing, it was ultimately the dynamism in the ensemble dancing that meant that when Anton shouted ‘We hope you’ve had fun this evening’, that I could, in spite of everything, truthfully answer ‘yes’.