It’s been a long time coming, but the nation’s favourite ballroom couple are back on the dancefloor with a brand new tour.
Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag have been beloved household names since they first appeared on the very first episode of Strictly Come Dancing way back in 2004 and are still as popular as ever, both on screen and in the live setting, where they have been regular fixtures up and down the country with incredible touring productions that have to be seen to be believed,
Along with the rest of the world of live entertainment, the pair had to postpone their 2021 tour due to coronavirus restrictions, but are now delighted to be back next year with a show that is going to be worth the wait – the incredible Showtime.
With stunning costumes, fabulous live vocals, a high-energy West End dance ensemble and a sensational 23 piece orchestra, it’s a glittering celebration that pays tribute to some of the world’s greatest icons of entertainment, inspired by an array of classic performers including Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Liza Minelli, Elton John and many more.
Speaking about the new production, Anton couldn’t be more excited to get back to doing what he and his partner Eron do best, putting on a show that brings a smile to people’s faces.
He said: “The bottom line is you’re putting on a show that’s really entertaining, one where people will walk out saying: ‘What a great night!’, so you don’t want to reinvent the wheel with obscure music or make it a contemporary dance thing, because that’s not what it says on the tin, it says Showtime. It’s a song and dance show that’s purely about entertainment. So the music has to be familiar with some pieces that people won’t massively recognise, or won’t have heard for a long time, but will love all the same, as they are iconic pieces. The choreography has to be spectacular and entertaining, too. Even the dresses are iconic. So what’s being played, and what you’re seeing, everything has to come together. We want people just to be able to sit down comfortably and be taken away.”
Both Anton and Erin are very involved in every aspect of the production, but the pair insist that it’s very much a team effort that they couldn’t possibly do all on their own.
Erin said: “We’re pretty hands-on to a certain extent. We have a lot of involvement and everything is run past us. We discuss the music and what’s going to happen, but we have a director now who comes in, makes suggestions and puts the pieces together,
If we wanted to, we could do a lot less and just turn up, do the pieces and go, but we like to have a lot of involvement. I go in and do all the costumes with them and all get together to do the music with everybody.”
Unsurprisingly, Anton is completely in sync with his dancing partner, saying: “Yes, the music choice is very much a group affair. So we have the MD, Richard Balcombe, Nikki Woollaston, who is our choreographer and director and us all in a room talking about musical choices and talking about shape of show, talking about direction of the show, title and what’s the sort of narrative that runs through the show. We are very involved in the five ballroom numbers, but the rest of the show is down to Nikki. She puts together all the ensemble pieces, the flow and the run of it, because you can’t do that when you’re in it. We tried that first year, and learnt pretty quickly that you need to be out front to do that. Anybody that thinks they can do it from onstage, well they’re either better than me at it, or better than us at it, or they’ve got three eyes.”
As well as the ballroom, Showtime covers lots of different dancing styles that aren’t especially in Anton and Erin’s wheelhouse, but they have the best team working with them and can rely on each other to make sure they all hit their marks every time.
Erin said: “It’s difficult! We get a lot of help and support from our dancers who have a more theatre background, but it takes a lot longer to put the pieces together for us. Thankfully they’re very patient with us, as they know exactly where we’re coming from. You still enjoy it though, even if I find the whole rehearsal pretty challenging. I prefer the third week, funnily enough, rather than the first couple of weeks. And then after the opening week, I go “well, actually it wasn’t that bad”. You learn where to breathe and it becomes second nature, so you can enjoy it. I feel I can relax into it, enjoy it a bit more.”
As always with Anton and Erin’s live shows, there’s also a Q&A section which always goes down a storm with the audiences. Sure the dancing is the main attraction, but the interaction with the crowd is just as important in its own way.
Erin said: “Yeah, of course it is. Three quarters of the show is dancing, with music and singing obviously. Then there’s a moment in the second half where we just tone it down and it’s always a funny moment. It’s a great moment, in fact. People laugh because it’s their own questions and they always want to know simple things like “what happens to the dresses after Strictly?” or what kind of underpants you wear, or what cheese you eat! There’s lots of those silly questions, but they cause a reaction. We used to get a lot of marriage proposals, too!
The Q&A’s are very popular, but it’s also important to go with what works and what doesn’t – if it doesn’t work, don’t have it, find something that does work, because you always want something fresh for the audience. We want to enjoy it, but it has to work in the show.”
After years establishing themselves as the premier couple in competitive ballroom dancing, Anton and Erin became an essential part of Strictly Come Dancing from the very start. It was quite the jump from the competitive but relatively unknown world they were from to being in the nation’s living rooms every weekend, but even though they were wary at first, they’ve loved every moment the last 17 years has brought them and have no regrets whatsoever.
Erin said: “Well, we had heard what would eventually become Strictly was in the pipeline, but it had always just been Come Dancing before that, which sort of worried us. That had been off the air for 15 years and was very dated. Ballroom dancing had moved on massively since then and we were worried they were going to take the mickey out of it. We were at the peak of our professional career and were told that the BBC were doing something with it and to put in our CVs. Little did we know that they’d actually been to the closed British championships in Blackpool and filmed us all. So we had to decide if we wanted to be a part of it, but Anton said ‘ I’d rather be a part of it to know what’s going on than not at all.’
Anton explains: “We’re all prone to not being involved in something and then complaining about it. I felt that it was better for us to be involved, even if we thought it was going to be a car crash, as we thought that we could potentially, with our experience, help steer it away from that happening. So we felt it would be better for us to be in.”
Even the format of the show was at an embryonic stage when the duo got the call, so they were pretty much the first pieces in the puzzle that would become the Saturday night television phenomenon we all know and love, but with such huge competition from the world of professional dancers, it’s all the more remarkable that both Anton and Erin made the cut.
Erin said: They didn’t know what it was going to be called, or that Bruce Forsyth was going to be hosting at that time. They were just choosing eight dancers and made it clear they weren’t looking for couples.”
Anton is still astonished by how well they both did, saying: “Only eight professionals out of the whole industry. Eight professionals. And we – dancing as a couple – were two out of the eight. So you know, that’s pretty amazing.”
Strictly Come Dancing was a huge hit straight away and was immediately commissioned for a second series, so it wasn’t long before Anton and Erin started to see things change for themselves. In only a few weeks, they had become genuine public figures and were on their way to being the national treasures they are today.
Anton said: “I felt it right from Series One, certainly from the fans. There were such huge viewing figures by the end of that first run, that immediately there was a huge uptake in the interest of the show and as a byproduct, you get well known, as it’s all part of it. It was lovely though and I enjoyed it from the off. I’ve loved it, in fact.”
Erin is in complete agreement and although she left the show after ten years to have her son, it still occupies a special place in her heart.
She said:: “It was a wonderful program to be a part of and obviously for Anton it still is. It becomes a part of you. There was a point in our career – and I think it was after the second show – where we had to make a decision of what to do? We either want to go this route and still compete, and do this or go, but neither of us have any doubt we made the right decision.”