Aljaž And Janette On Tour With New Spectacular Remembering The Oscars
by Geoff Ford
Following on from their 2019 sell-out tour with their highly entertaining and innovative Remembering The Movies, Strictly’s favourite couple Aljaž and Janette will return to theatres across the UK this Spring with their with their long-awaited brand new dance spectacular Remembering The Oscars.
Originally scheduled for Spring 2020, the tour was twice postponed due to the pandemic. But now the 40-date tour, in which Aljaž and Janette give the red-carpet treatment to Oscar-winning songs, dances, movies and stars, continues through April to a residency at London’s Peacock Theatre from 2nd May. Additional matinee performances will take place for the Northern dates in Billingham (8th April) and Newcastle (10th April).
With a cast of amazing dancers and musicians and stunning stage designs, costumes and huge LED screen featuring specially filmed content, this dazzling spectacular will be a night to remember. Whether you are Wishing On A Star, Swinging On A Star or merely dancing in the City of Stars, this incredible production will take you from Disney family favourites, through to the Golden Ages of Hollywood and Bollywood, with songs from Lady Gaga, Adele, Prince, Queen, Eminem, Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, as well as classics from legendary songwriters such as Burt Bacharach, John Barry, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin and many more.
‘Remembering The Oscars is our biggest and most ambitious production to-date,’ said Janette Manrara. ‘We have hand-picked an incredible cast, we have some great material to work with and quite a few surprises. The Oscar-winning movies, songs and actors that have inspired us will take this tour to another level, one that we know our audiences are going to love. To say Aljaž and I are excited about this tour is a huge understatement.’
‘While we were touring the UK with Remembering The Movies, Janette and I were constantly talking about how we could evolve the show,’ Aljaž Škorjanec added, ‘taking it to the next level and into the West End.’
When they took their Remembering The Movies show on the road in 2019, it shifted 50,000 tickets at UK box offices and they couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this latest venture.
‘You’re going to feel you’ve had a night at the Oscars,’ says Aljaž. ‘There’s going to be all styles of dancing that even includes a little bit of Bollywood courtesy of Slumdog Millionaire.’
Says Janette: ‘We’ll also be reflecting some of the amazing choreography featured in films like La La Land, Flashdance and Chorus Line. It can’t be long, in our opinion, until an Oscar is awarded for best choreography.’
One of her favourite parts of the show is when she’ll get to do the slow, romantic numbers with her husband. Whichever way you slice it, Aljaž is something of a heartthrob. Is she comfortable with that? ‘Absolutely. In fact, I find it quite complimentary. I’m very proud of him. The way I see it, I pick up some of the kudos. Other women might lust after him but I’m the one he comes home to!’
Adds Aljaz: ‘If you’re in a strong relationship with someone else, it’s not inevitable that you’ll begin an affair with your dance partner. The rumba, the Argentine tango, both require you to put across physical attraction.
‘But it doesn’t have to spill over to life away from the dance floor. In the end, any passion is manufactured. Dancing is acting. It’s telling a story with conviction. But it’s not real.’
Before rehearsals began in earnest, both of them had to complete the Strictly pro/celeb UK tour – although, for Janette, it was a role with a difference. Following her successful presenting stint fronting It Takes Two, the daily Strictly spin-off, she was chosen to host the Strictly tour.
‘I’ve long wanted to establish myself as a presenter,’ she says, ‘and, luckily, I was able to achieve that when I got the break to co-host Morning Live, the show that follows BBC Breakfast each weekday morning. That was a big pinch-me moment.
‘Gethin Jones is the main host and he taught me so much.’ For instance? ‘His best bit of advice was to make sure I’d done really thorough research on anyone I’d be interviewing and especially if it was someone I’d never met before on Strictly. There’s no substitute for doing your homework properly.’
For all this seamless transfer to becoming a TV host, it must have been hard to find herself not dancing anymore. Hand on heart, did she miss it? ‘A lot. Strictly was my family for so long. I’m married to someone who was still dancing on the show. I found it very hard.
‘Being a dancer is who I am. I’m 38 now and my body is changing. It felt strange not being physically active anymore, not activating my endorphins on a daily basis. Now I go to the gym regularly and watch what I eat because I’m not burning off the calories through dancing every day.’
But the gods were smiling on her. ‘I was given an incredible opportunity to have one last dance on television. Sarah James, the producer of Strictly, called me on my birthday in November and said she had a present for me.
‘She asked me to dance with Aljaz as Ed Sheeran sang his new song on the final of the show. I must admit I cried.”
Janette loved her time on It Takes Two. ‘I’m not a very competitive person. I wanted everyone to do well. So I loved following the journey of each couple.’
And no one more so than Rose Ayling-Ellis who danced on the Strictly tour with her professional partner, Giovanni Pernice. ‘She’s a remarkable young woman. I still marvel at how she’s able to dance the way she does without being able to hear the music. It’s as though she ‘feels’ it.
‘Watching her dance always made me emotional – as it did so many people. That moment when she music stopped in their couple’s choice and they kept dancing will go down as one of the stand-out moments in the history of Strictly. Truly, she was an inspiration.’
Meanwhile, Aljaž can’t see a time, he says, when he won’t be dancing if his body allows. ‘I’ve been dancing since I was five. I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a dancer.’
He grew up in a small town – ‘There was only one set of traffic lights’ – in Slovenia, an hour-and-a-half’s drive from the capital, Ljubljana. His father, Srečko, would drive him there after school to dancing lessons every other day and then wait hours before driving him home again. It’s a sacrifice that Aljaž has never forgotten and one that he’s applied to his career before, during and aside from Strictly.
His mother, Nataša, was equally invested in her son’s ambition. And discipline and dedication, he says, were her watchwords. ‘Her favourite saying was: “The short cut is the longest way.” What she meant is that there’s no substitute for doing things properly.’ He clearly took it to heart. He rolls up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of his adored mother’s maxim on his left upper forearm.
Does it ever occur to either him or Janette that the Strictly bubble might one day burst? ‘Every single day,’ says Aljaž. ‘Our faces may not fit anymore or our bodies will start objecting to the demands we make on them. But it’s great while it lasts.’
Janette agrees. ‘I’d had some success in Miami where I was raised but Strictly changed our lives, no question. People talk about the Strictly Curse. Well, we see it more as a blessing. It’s why we met, it’s where we fell in love and now we’re married. I think the public likes the fact that we’re a real-life couple.’
All right, let’s fast-forward 10 years. What would be the perfect scenario, both personally and professionally, for each of them? Aljaž loves the social life, he says, that comes with dancing.
‘I like to entertain; I’m fond of cooking. So, looking way into the future, I’d love to own a coffee shop or a bar one day. But, for now, there’s nothing I like better than performing.’
Involuntarily, he picks up Janette’s right hand. ‘I hope we’re just as happy then as we are now,’ he says, simply. ‘I feel so happy and proud of everything we do every day.’
Says Janette: ‘The more time we spend together, the more the love deepens. I think about the future a lot. In 10 years’ time, children will be part of the picture. And I hope we’ll have a beautiful home out in the country. Health and happiness – they’re the goal.
‘That’s what I wish upon a star.’
Remembering The Oscars April tour dates:
Thu 7 York The Barbican
Sun 17 Manchester Bridgewater Hall
Mon 25 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
For more information please visit www.rememberingtheoscars.com