Remembering Fred – Review – York Grand Opera House, May 2017
By Angie Aspinall, May 2017
The setting for Remembering Fred is a mythical live radio show where songs, dances and interviews are woven together into a performance before a live studio audience. Tonight, the show is coming live from the Grand Opera House York, a former Corn Exchange, built in 1868, which was only ever intended to host occasional concerts. When the corn exchange failed, it was converted into a theatre, which opened in 1902 – just three years after the birth of Frederick Austerlitz, who later became known as Fred Astaire.
Born in Nebraska, the son of an Austrian-born father and American-born mother of German descent, Fred and his sister, Annie soon became known as ‘The greatest child act in vaudeville’. Astaire goes on to have a career spanning 76 years, including the making of 31 musical films – ten of which he stars in with his most famous dance partner, Ginger Rogers.
“A spellbinding show”
Remembering Fred celebrates the life and works of Fred Astaire. It’s a touching tribute hosted live by talented singer/dancer/actor David Page. His CV includes working with the legendary dancer, Cyd Charisse, whose talents are also acknowledged during the show when Strictly Come Dancing stars, Janette Manrara and Alijaz Skorjanec perform the iconic Fred/Cyd dance from Band Wagon.
The virtual host for the evening, is Michael Ball, whose recorded voice is played over a blacked-out stage. For me, this story-telling/interview-playing technique falls short of the mark in terms of entertainment. But it is perhaps necessary to give the small cast of performers time for their many costume-changes. However, it does not detract from my overall enjoyment of what is otherwise a spellbinding show.
In the opening number, Page and the band are joined on stage by talented singer/dancer, Miranda Wilford, and a cast of fabulous dancers/tap dancers: Alastair Crosswell, Charlie Bruce, Veronica Fulton and Scott Coldwell. In turn, they are later joined by stars of the show, Janette and Aljaz.
Dancing to classics by George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, the cast transport us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, conjuring up memories of Fred and Ginger, Fred and Gene, and Fred and Cyd.
Famous for their Latin and Ballroom dancing, Alijaz and Janette each hold their own with the tap dancing stars of the show in their separate show-stopping numbers. Other highlights of the show for me, are the quickstep to ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’, the Cha Cha to ‘The Continental’ and the tap dancing on the drums by Alastair Crosswell. And, of course, Alijaz’s dazzling solo performance.
After the interval, the audience is treated to a brief interview with the Strictly stars. The couple’s likeability shines through and Alijaz’ shares with us his sense of humour before launching back into more fabulous dancing and an introduction to the band (who have performed beautifully throughout the evening). The show culminates in a dazzling finale, with the whole troupe’s performance of ‘Putting on the Ritz’. All in all, a fitting tribute to the late, great Fred Astaire.