Remembering Fred – New Theatre, Oxford

2.Remembering Fred 2017Remembering Fred was performed at the New Theatre, Oxford as part of a tour. The show begins a new tour in March 2018.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

What director Gareth Walker has designed in Remembering Fred is a faithful re-creation of the most famous routines of the masterful Fred Astaire, but in the format of a brand new show: using today’s choreographic vocabulary, this is a vibrant homage to the great American dancer, singer, actor and choreographer.

Headed by one of Strictly Come Dancing’s most talented and popular couples, Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara, the show rarely disappoints (it’s only the interview segments that seem overlong).

These performers’ style more suits the Latin- flavoured medley of ‘The Continental’ and the ‘Carioca’ than it does the more intimate pieces, but their dancing is always spectacular. Highlights are Manrara’s diving into the group of male dancers and Skorjanec’s solo to singer David Page’s climatic rendition of ‘One For My Baby’.

The stroke of genius is to surround them with not just a chorus of dancers and vocalists, but with individual artists just as talented as them in their own specialities.

Miranda Wilford is the consummate Big Band singer, has a winning personality, and finds a perfect partner in West End veteran Page.

As for Charlie Bruce, Veronica Fulton and Scott Coldwell, their dancing is nothing short of sensational.

Remembering_Fred-Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara 2But the evening belongs to multi-talented Alastair Crosswell for performing many of the demanding tap routines (such as the Act II opening ‘drum’ number) and for conjuring up, more than anyone else in the cast, the debonair elegance of Astaire.

Crosswell oozes the essence of Astaire, from his natural singing voice to the virtuosity of his footwork, without ever trying to imitate him.

What a delight to see him shine in rarely heard numbers such as the ‘The Ritz Roll and Rock’ from Silk Stockings and ‘The Babbitt and the Bromide’ from Ziegfeld Follies in which he finds in Coldwell a perfect Kelly-esque alter ego.

The real strength of this show is that while everyone’s individual talents are used to their full potential, the artists also gel as a group; the original Fosse-flavoured encore to Astaire’s trademark piece ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’ being just one example.

Like the rest of the show, this sequence is accompanied impeccably by the excellent five-piece band under the expert musical direction of Clive Dunstall.

Though this year’s extensive tour has now come to an end, Remembering Fred will be back by popular demand next season with already three months of UK dates in the diary.

Let’s hope that the show and the enormous talent on display will help a new generation discover the genius of Fred Astaire.

Patrick Honoré


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