“You can call me ‘champ”, Strictly Come Dancing’s 2021 winner tells us in typical tongue-in-cheek style as he saunters onto the stage before embarking upon a dizzying array of dance moves. He is here at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall with his This is Me solo show, rescheduled from 2021.
Named after the song from The Greatest Showman, Giovanni Pernice and his cast – not from Strictly but equally fabulous, don’t disappoint as they whisk us away on a magical journey of the Charleston, the flamenco, a pulse quickening paso doble and a scintillating sauce. The dangerously dapper Giovanni, an incredibly talented cast, rainbow-hued costumes and a self-deprecating dash of humor add up to a sure-fire recipe for success.
Spectacular performances aside, it’s the humor that sets the show apart and gives the show a wider appeal. Giovanni’s cheeky Southern Italian charm captivates the heavily female audience and provides amusing interludes to the high intensity dancing.
Read more : Beauty and the Beast arrives in Manchester – and it’s a stunner
The most notable of these is a tribute to his hero, Freddie Mercury. Flanked by his impressive singers Whitney Martins and Tobias Turley, ‘Gio’, as he makes the crowd chant at him, in a variation on The Queen frontman’s ‘Ayo’, performs a series of dances to The Show Must Go On, Bohemian Rhapsody and Another One Bites The Dust.
The pinnacle of these pieces is when the Sicilian star dons a black PVC mini skirt and heels for Freddie’s famous performance in his track I Want To Break Free. Working the screaming crowd into a frenzy, he asks who wants to join him on stage, then shatters every woman’s dreams by picking a man and launching into a routine that’s cheeky in more ways than one.
The show includes a sign language interpreter, Stacey, in tribute to Giovanni’s deaf Strictly dance partner Rose Ayling-Ellis. She is possibly the sassiest signer I have ever seen – every bit as glamorous as the rest of the cast and changes outfits almost as often.
Giovanni even has to go himself at signing the intro to the song ‘This Is Me’.
His cast of female dancers meanwhile envelop him so passionately throughout the show that if this was ‘real life’ and not ‘just fantasy’, you’d feel compelled to advise them to play a little harder to get!
The vocals are superb – Whitney’s voice in particular could fill arenas, but, not to be outdone, Giovanni treats us to some singing of his own, joining Whitney and Tobias in his native Italian and sounding surprisingly good!
The dance highlight of the night has to be the terrific tango with his main partner Lauren Oakley. We’ve all seen the stupendously sexy female dancers on ‘Strictly’ but Lauren’s performance is on another level entirely. Her arms of her like tree branches swaying hauntingly in the breeze, her moves of her have a ghostly, ethereal quality that bring tears to your eyes.
Slinky, sexy and sizzlingly seamless, it’s hard to think of a better show to see after a hard day at work. And from the standing ovation, it was clear that ‘This Is Me’ was exactly how the audience felt about the night.
Get the latest What’s On news – from food and drink to music and nightlife – straight to your inbox with our daily newsletter.