For those who are not well versed in the Strictly Come Dancing universe, Giovanni Pernice is one of the most loved professional dancers on the BBC show, having started his Strictly journey in 2015 and only last year managing to win the series with Strictly’s first ever deaf contestant, Rose Ayling-Ellis. Giovanni has long been a programme and an audience favourite, with his suave good looks, his sensual dance moves, and his Italian cheeky-chappy persona.
With all this in mind, I was under no illusions that Giovanni, a natural-born performer, would put on a great show – and oh, he did.
From the beginning I did question the choice of venue for this production – I didn’t feel the Bridgewater Hall was able to contain the amount of energy and exuberance that a show like this would have. However, not even being able to see into the stage left wing from my seat in the Upper Circle could detract from such a spectacular show. This was theatrical escapism at its finest – there was singing, dancing (of course!), and unexpected interludes of Giovanni monologuing to his transfixed audience. He was warm, funny and passionate, leaving swathes of women in the audience swooning more than ever.
This Is Me led the audience on a titillating journey through dance, across different genres and locations, from the upper echelons of European society through to Brazil, with a steamy stop in Argentina for good measure. We even took an unexpected journey to London’s Wembley Stadium circa Live Aid 1985, which added yet more dynamism to an already diverse and delightfully different show. Giovanni referenced his idol Freddie Mercury often throughout the show, and you could clearly see the parallels between them in their love of the audience, and their wonderful showmanship on the stage. No spoilers here, but let’s just say Giovanni’s admiration of Freddie led to a very unexpected – but deliciously funny – skit that involved audience participation and had the audience in raptures.
Throughout the 2 hour show, Giovanni definitely played up to his status as a heartthrob – think cheeky innuendos, barely there costumes and a whole lot of saucy dancing – but the audience lapped it up. There were also moments of incredible tenderness throughout, which were as genuine as they were poignant. The inclusion of a sign language interpreter, who felt as much a part of the show as any of the cast, was a poignant nod to Giovanni’s Strictly dance partner Rose Ayling-Ellis – as well as Giovanni performing sign language himself to The Greatest Showman’s This is Me at the end of the show. A truly fitting end to a truly magical performance.
Although the set design in my opinion left much to be desired, and at times the sound was so loud it was almost discomforting, it wouldn’t be fair to let these small technical hiccups detract from an otherwise stellar show.
Each dancer in the cast was incredible – their expertise on the dance floor was exceptional – but I do have to tip my hat to Lauren Oakley, the principle female dancer who matched Giovanni’s passion and skill perfectly; oftentimes you couldn’t keep your eyes off her, mesmerising as she was. Two more standouts were Whitney Martins and Tobias Turley, who performed an incredible vocal set throughout the performance.
All in all, an incredible show with boundless energy, fun and passion – and a superb showcase of its star performer Giovanni Pernice, who is definitely carving a name for himself as the greatest showman in his own right.
This is Me is a touring production – click here to see latest performance dates: https://www.giovannipernice.com/tickets-dates
Review: Hannah Wilde
Reviewed: 8th April 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★