Remembering Fred Q&A, with Janette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec
Janette Manrara: I was a very hyper child! I constantly put shows on for my family and, needless to say, when there was music I’d definitely be dancing to it! My career kicked-off professionally when I was about 24. I was a part of the USA version of So You Think You Can Dance and did very well on the show, and so made the move to Los Angeles. I lived in LA for a while and danced with big stars such as Jennifer Lopez and was cast as a member of Vocal Adrenaline on the TV series Glee. I then joined the cast of the Broadway show Burn the Floor on their international tour, which kicked-off in the West End here in the U.K.. I was able to tour the world with the show for 4 years before coming back to the West End, where I was selected to join the cast of Strictly Come Dancing in 2013! I truly love being a part of Strictly Come Dancing, and hope to continue being a part of the show for many years to come!
Aljaž Škorjanec: I signed myself up into a dance school at the age of 4. I then began competing at the age of 5 and did so until the age of 18. In my 13 years of competing, I won numerous national championships, including being 19 time Slovenian Champion in Ballroom and Latin dancing. I was very proud to represent Slovenia in many competitions around the world. When I turned 19, I auditioned for the Broadway show Burn the Floor that was playing here in London’s West End. And that is where my career in theatre and TV began! I was lucky enough to join Burn the Floor on its international tour, as well as join the cast for its second run in London’s West End in 2013. It was here that I was invited to join the cast of Strictly Come Dancing, going on to win my first series with the show with my celebrity partner Abbey Clancy! I have loved every year on Strictly Come Dancing, and look forward to hopefully many more to come.
Our favourite thing about touring is getting to see so much of the UK and meeting all of the fans along the way. It is so rewarding to go to small towns as well as big towns and meet the people who tune in to watch us on Saturday nights! We love saying hello and are extremely grateful for the support they have shown through the years.
The creative meeting begins a year before we open! We have many discussions on how the show will run, song choices, scripts, stage sets, costumes…you name it! This all happens throughout the year and our producer Steven Howard, and director/choreographer Gareth Walker do an incredible job at piecing it all together. We then have about 2½ weeks of rehearsals before our opening night. These 2½ weeks are the most exciting, as we get to see all of our team’s hard work come to fruition! We have an incredible cast and to see all of it come together is very exciting for us!
We like to calm our minds and think about how special our show really is! To be able to celebrate someone like Fred Astaire every night is a true honour for us, so besides lots of coffee and a good warm-up, we take time to soak in the true meaning of why we are doing this show and hope that we can convey our passion and admiration for Fred Astaire whilst on stage within our amazing cast.
We love every single song in the show and our favourites change daily! Haha! Every song was so carefully chosen, so each one has a very special meaning to us.
We have been incredibly lucky to play in some amazing venues across the country. That being said, to be able to play not one but two shows in the London Palladium is truly a dream come true for us. So many legendary performers have been on that stage, and to say that we were there as well is something that has made us feel extremely privileged!
The beauty of live theatre shows is the excitement of the “here and now”! We have had a few funny moments happen throughout the tour, but I think we’ll keep those quiet and try to maintain the magic of our show alive! Haha!
Janette: Our costume designer, Francis Campbell, and stylist Carol Howard, have really created some extraordinary pieces for the show which are all very different! Every single dress is a great representation of something you would see the likes of Ginger Rodgers and Cyd Charisse wearing! They manage to have a feeling of the Golden Age of Hollywood Glam, but yet still feel quite current! To pick a favourite would be too hard!
We are very lucky to get to meet fans, but all of their gifts have been wonderful! We get flowers, chocolates, and lovely keepsakes from wherever we go! None of them funny, but instead all extremely thoughtful and lovely!
Janette: “To have a night of true joy through song and dance, celebrating the legend that is Fred Astaire who should never be forgotten!”
Aljaž: “In a world where our minds are constantly busy, Remembering Fred will be a night that will take you away into a place where music and dance come together to celebrate a man who inspired so many: Fred Astaire!”
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