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Remembering The Oscars

Aljaž Skorjanec & Janette Manrara
Peacock Theatre

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Aljaž Skorjanec & Janette Manrara

In Remembering the Oscars, Strictly Come Dancing celebrities Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara steal the limelight in this affectionate, playful, pantomime spirited tribute to a selection of Oscar-nominated films, soundtracks and choreography.

Overall, the evening sizzles with vats of energy, cringeworthy jokes and plenty of pizazz from a cast of undeniably talented performers, including Ash-Leigh Hunter (dance captain) with singers Richard Woodford and Janine Johnson, belting out their all in what is ultimately an entertaining, if not surreal, concoction of live performance and film, re-enacting the Oscars night.

It opens with a montage of iconic Hollywood movie posters superimposed with Manrara and Škorjanec’s faces onto them—funny, if the intention is pure farcical humour. Then, drumroll, the red carpet is rolled out as anticipation builds. What comes next however is a collection of wonderfully energetic dance routines, even if they don't always echo the era—where are the tap shoes?

Dance is backed by some rather odd role-play moments and unfunny jokes, including digs at Will Smith, recreating the Oscars night, framed by a LED backdrop that speedily cuts from one segment to another in chaotic fun.

So where does the inspiration for this dance / slapstick Oscars night narrative originate?

The show flags up the poor recognition of movement in the movies where, according to Aljaž, dance is underrepresented as an art form. Surprisingly, the Academy Award for Best Dance Direction as a category only existed from 1936–1938 and was then abandoned. Dynamic duo Aljaž and Janette are passionate about honouring choreography that deserves Oscar recognition—or a least the limelight in their show.

While the dancing numbers are beautifully executed by all, "Singin’ in the Rain" and Chicago’s "All That Jazz", especially showcase the ensemble’s talents, Škorjanec and Manrara as the married couple (literally) steal the show with their sizzling onstage chemistry and admirable skill in sets from LA LA Land to All That Jazz.

The couple transmit such energetic force with vats of performance potential, perhaps the performers and their real talents alone would’ve sufficed without plugging into an artificial narrative that veers from farcically funny to a little uncomfortable.

Other memorable moments include Johnson bellowing out "Don’t Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl, in the best Barbara Streisand impersonation since Lady Gaga in A Star is Born.

Aljaž and Ash-Leigh ballroom dance take on Evita's "You Must Love Me" and a tribute sequence to Marlon Brando' s portrayal of Don Corleone in The Godfather are seamlessly executed as they glide and skim across the stage. Ash-Leigh is a slick performer as the competitive blond 'other women', her leggy ballroom dancing aloof and goddess-like in execution.

While perhaps the most surreal choreography award, if there is one, should be given to a strange, semi-balletic routine honouring Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance as Nina Sayers in Black Swan. Here, Manrara flutters about in a ballet-ballroom mash-up of angst and pain, her mawkish, tortured movements, brilliantly dramatic, bordering on the absurd.

Remembering the Oscars delivers slick, spectacular choreography with some breathtakingly good lifts and much goodwill and energy, though a little less of the jokey chitchat could only serve to keep the audience enthralled in what the cast do best: high tempo singing and dancing glory.

Reviewer: Rachel Nouchi