Remembering the Oscars

Aljaž Škorjanec, Janette Manrara and cast, Remembering the Oscars (credit Ryan X Howard) 2
Remembering the Oscars (online)
Photo credit: Ryan X Howard

Following the success of Remembering Fred and Remembering the Movies, Aljaž Škorjanec & Janette Manrara are now taking on the Academy Awards in their new show, Remembering the Oscars. Though the live stage show has been postponed until 2022, the pair were keen to break new ground and keep their creativity flowing – to that end, they’ve worked with director & choreographer Gareth Walker to put together a digital preview, distilling the two-hour production down to a 60-minute highlights package (filmed over two days at Bournemouth International Centre). For anyone keen on getting the full inside track, there is a behind-the-scenes documentary and an interview conducted by Richard Arnold.

As Strictly Come Dancing viewers will have come to expect, the pair fully embrace the theme from the word go, from the MGM lion and their own movie reels, to a glamorous red carpet entrance (filmed outside London’s Apollo Theatre) soundtracked by Lullaby of Broadway. This opening is followed by something of a dance overture, entitled ‘Hooray for Hollywood’; here the pair (and their troupe of dancers) give a potted history of Hollywood via a medley of routines – starting with a samba to The Continental (following in Fred Astaire’s footsteps) and ending with a group dance to (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life with that lift, plus a couple of fun clips of Aljaž doing a Rocky training montage and Janette living her best Flashdance life.

The rest of the show is set out like it’s their own awards ceremony, with routines grouped together into typical (and not-so-typical) categories following brief introductions from the couple – presumably the live show will follow a similar template, to give them a chance to explain some of their choices and engage with the audience. I absolutely love this concept, as the medleys for each category act a bit like the “and the nominees are…” and allow them to bring in as many different films & personalities as possible. In this preview show we are treated to ‘Best Actress’, ‘Best Choreography’, ‘Best Picture’ & ‘Honorary Award: Disney’.

The latter will not come as a shock to Strictly viewers, as Janette is renowned as a Disney fiend – whilst it is a fun inclusion (& fits with the family friendly nature of the show), I would have preferred it to be half the length so another category could be squeezed in (‘Best Director’ would get my vote). Walt Disney may hold the record for most Oscars in history, but that doesn’t mean this needed to be the longest section of the show! Perhaps Remembering Walt would be a good idea for a future show..?

Aljaž Škorjanec, Janette Manrara and cast, Remembering the Oscars (credit Ryan X Howard)
Remembering the Oscars (online)
Photo credit: Ryan X Howard

In order to trim the section down, the numbers from The Lion King could possibly have been ditched; it feels a little too ‘white’ for me (particularly The Circle of Life intro & finale) – even more so than the original 1994 animated film! Though Remembering the Oscars exists to be a fun & entertaining dance show, the lack of authenticity (from choreographer to dancers) doesn’t quite sit right with me.

It’s interesting that this does seem to be a show that makes more of an effort to be a theatrical experience, with vocalists Giovanni Spanó & Janine Johnson getting involved in some of the numbers. I’m not the biggest fan of lip syncing, but it works well in this context – even giving Janette the chance to live her musical theatre kid dreams by laying down the vocal track for All That Jazz, and also morphing into Mary Poppins during the Disney section. Along with several group numbers without the lead couple (a usual feature of this kind of dance stage show), it really does feel like an all-round production rather than just a series of dance routines.

My favourite section of the show was definitely ‘Best Choreography’; this wasn’t plucked out of nowhere, as the Academy briefly had their own ‘Best Dance Direction’ award between 1935 & 1937 – I absolutely back Aljaž & Janette’s call for it to be reinstated in some form, though perhaps ‘Best Movement’ would be a good way to recognise choreography and movement direction, depending on what kind of films are released each year. This section begins with An American in Paris and I was immediately whisked back to the Dominion Theatre, where the stage version ran in 2017; I also really love the interpretation of City of Stars (from La La Land), bringing the film’s central romance to the fore in a fun & understated ballroom number.

As for my favourite routine, I think that has to be between the Argentine Tango from Scent of a Woman and the You Must Love Me/Don’t Cry For Me Argentina ballroom sequence. Ash-Leigh Hunter partners Aljaž beautifully in the latter, the pair effortlessly gliding across the stage to celebrate Madonna’s performance of You Must Love Me (the 1996 Academy Award winner for Best Original Song) as well as her Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Eva Perón in Evita. And who doesn’t enjoy an Argentine Tango? Por Una Cabeza is an instantly recognisable piece of music, and Aljaž & Janette capture the intensity of the dance perfectly in this atmospheric routine.

All in all, this digital preview show has been excellently done – and definitely whets the appetite for the full show that will be touring the UK from next March. It’s no mean feat to reimagine some very well-known numbers for a brand new show, particularly those from movie musicals (such as The Gay Divorcee) or any that have subsequently been adapted for the stage (such as Mary Poppins), but Walker, Škorjanec & Manrara have done a terrific job in balancing famous moves with new choreography. As an online package, I would definitely recommend pushing the boat out and buying tickets for at least one of the additional videos, as they provide great insight into the huge amount of work that goes into creating a production (especially in COVID times) as well as teasing a few more details about the full show.

Keeeeep dancing!

Aljaž Škorjanec, Janette Manrara and cast, Remembering the Oscars (credit Ryan X Howard) 1
Remembering the Oscars (online)
Photo credit: Ryan X Howard

My verdict? A superb hour of movies & dance, with a fun concept and brilliant choreography – Aljaž & Janette are absolutely in their element.

Rating: 4*

Remembering the Oscars is streaming from 27 March – 17 April 2021. Tickets are available from the official website and include a digital programme – additional content can be purchased (behind-the-scenes documentary & interview with Richard Arnold) for £5 each. Aljaž & Janette will be doing an aftershow Instagram Live on Saturday 27 March, following the première. The full show will be touring in 2022 – tickets are available online.

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