“You can call me ‘champion’,” the 2021 Strictly Come Dancing winner tells us in typical wry style as he wanders the stage before launching into a dizzying array of dance moves. He’s here at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with his solo show This is Me, postponed to 2021.
Named after the song by The Greatest Showman, Giovanni Pernice and his cast – not Strictly but equally fabulous, don’t disappoint as they take us on a magical journey of Charleston, flamenco, a speeding paso doble the pulse and a scintillating salsa. The dangerously dapper Giovanni, an incredibly talented cast, rainbow-colored costumes and a dash of self-deprecating humor add up to a surefire recipe for success.
Aside from the spectacular performances, it’s the humor that sets the show apart and gives it a wider appeal. Giovanni’s cheeky southern Italian charm captivates the all-female audience and delivers fun interludes to high-intensity dance.
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The most notable of these is a tribute to his hero, Freddie Mercury. Flanked by his impressive vocalists Whitney Martins and Tobias Turley, ‘Gio’, as he gets the crowd singing, in a variation on the Queen frontman’s ‘Ayo’, performs a series of dances to The Show Must Go On, Bohemian Rhapsody and Another Biting the Dust.
The pinnacle of these pieces is when the Sicilian star dons a black PVC miniskirt and heels for Freddie’s famous performance in his track I Want To Break Free. Driving the screaming crowd into a frenzy, he asks who wants to join him on stage, then shatters each woman’s dreams by choosing a man and embarking on a cheeky routine in more ways than one.
The show features a sign language interpreter, Stacey, as a tribute to Giovanni’s Strictly Deaf dance partner, Rose Ayling-Ellis. She’s possibly the most sassy singer I’ve ever seen – just as glamorous as the rest of the cast and changes outfits almost as often.
Giovanni even tried to sign the intro of the song “This Is Me”.
Meanwhile, her cast of dancers envelops her so passionately throughout the show that if this was ‘real life’ and not ‘just fantasy’, you’d feel compelled to advise them to perform. a little harder!
The voice is superb – Whitney’s voice in particular could fill the arena, but, not to be outdone, Giovanni offers us his own vocals, joining Whitney and Tobias in his native Italian and sounding surprisingly good!
The dancing highlight of the evening has to be the terrific tango with lead partner Lauren Oakley. We’ve all seen the stupendously sexy dancers on “Strictly,” but Lauren’s performance is on a whole other level. Her arms like tree branches swaying hauntingly in the breeze, her movements have a ghostly, ethereal quality that brings tears to your eyes.
Slinky, sexy, and impossibly flowing, it’s hard to think of a better show to see after a hard day’s work. And from the standing ovation, it was clear that “This Is Me” was exactly how the audience felt about the night.
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