Lichfield Garrick Main Theatre, Monday 29 October
By Jono Oates, Features Writer
Now I have to start this review by owning-up that I am not a huge fan of either ballroom dancing or of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing – but I have to admit that the Robin Windsor farewell tour show at the Garrick last Monday was fun, flashy, flamboyant and, of course …Fab-U-Lous Darling!
Robin appeared on Strictly from 2010 to 2013 and was one of the most popular performers, appearing with celebrity dance partners Patsy Kensit, Dragon’s Den Deborah Meaden, Eastenders’ Anita Dobson and, probably the most popular combination, Emmerdale’s Lisa Riley.
He has also appeared in many professional dance shows including the very popular, high-octane ballroom show Burn the Floor and has also worked on shows with fellow Strictly dance professional, Kristina Rihanoff.
Now Robin has decided to hang up his professional dancing shoes and embark on a new venture, working as a dance instructor at the Body Holiday, a health resort in St Lucia and he will move to the Caribbean in February 2019.
So, before he leaves the shores of the UK for sunnier climes, he has embarked on an autumnal farewell tour of the country with a series of dates which included the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on Monday 29 October 2018.
The show, as you would expect, does feature a dazzling array of dance routines, with the various genres seen so often on Strictly all represented. Robin is accompanied on the tour by five dancers and the routines are all highly professional, seamless, spirited and a delight on the eyes. They are performed with a backdrop of songs and music from across the decades, from 1940’s classics, through 1970’s disco and on to ballads from the noughties. So, the show starts with Puttin’ on the Ritz, the Irving Berlin standard made famous by Astaire, and segues into the hauntingly beautiful, and stunningly performed, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.
It is a generous show, with each pair of dance partners having their own solo (duo?) spot, so that Robin does not always take centre stage and the routines are all very bright, colourful and engaging with an almost endless, bewildering, supply of costume changes.
Anya Garnis, who has also appeared on Strictly, was Robin’s leading partner, the two other male dancers were Domenico Palmisano and Gustavo Viglio and their female partners were Victoria Martin and Nina Geric, all of whom have appeared on Burn the Floor. The lifts in particular were extremely impressive and expertly carried out, the female partners sometimes spending more time upside down than the right way up!
However the show is not all about the dance, in between each section Robin took us on a tour of his life, from earliest beginnings to his first dance classes, through interminable jobs when he took a break from dancing and then on to the professional dance shows culminating in Strictly Come Dancing. Having performed a high tempo, high action dance routine, to go straight to the microphone and chat immediately to the audience, without being able to catch a breath, takes some doing. Robin found a neat way round this by asking the audience to kindly give him an extra-long round of applause at the end of every sequence, something which the Lichfield audience didn’t need much encouragement to do.
In one of the interlude breaks from the music and dance, Robin pulled up a single chair and sat, speaking openly and honestly about his life, his family, his sexuality, his heartbreaks, his mental health welfare (he suffered issues in 2014, the same time that a back injury caused him to pull out of Strictly) and his plans for the future. In the calm of the dancing storm this was a highlight for me, he spoke very much from the heart and we got to see the man behind the sparkly outfits, the glitz and the glamour.
It’s an engaging performance from Robin, he is extremely likeable, funny and self-depreciating, and he comes across as a generous, friendly and open person. At one stage he forgot his lines but did not blame anyone else but himself, just laughed at his own mistake and carried on. He also let one lucky member of the audience into a secret regarding his very firm posterior – which she seemed to appreciate and admire very much!
In addition to the dancing two vidclips were shown, one featuring best wishes for the future from a whole host of dancing stars and co-stars from Strictly including Anita Dobson, her husband Brian May of Queen, former dance partner Kristina Rihanoff, best mate on Strictly Ertim, and Lisa Riley. The second set of photos was a hilarious montage of some of Robin’s former partners, with a list of lovers from a veritable A-Z of countries and nationalities!
The six dance performers also showed another set of skills when they lined up and sat down at the front of the stage, legs dangling over the edge, performing a syncopated, handclapping routine to music, at a very quick pace and with an even quicker, eye-popping, hand-blurring version as an encore. Robin explained afterwards that this was very hard for them all to do, that the dance routines come fairly easily to them but that they really struggled to learn, and execute, this routine. But, to me, it was something that professional dancers would excel in: natural rhythm, dexterity, speed of movement and thought, hand-eye coordination and flair. If it was hard to learn they certainly made it look very easy, one young fan in the front row was so impressed that she gave Robin a cheeky high-five at the end!
As the show closed Robin talked about the future and his plans to move to the Caribbean, becoming very emotional and struggling at times to continue with his script. However these were not crocodile or staged tears, but clearly genuine emotion from a genuine man, at a crossroads in his career as he prepares to leave one country for a new life in another.
Altogether this was a great night’s family entertainment, and, like me, you don’t have to be a ballroom dance fan to enjoy it – the music, the moves, the funny stories, the life lessons and the personal anecdotes all go towards providing a warm, friendly and uplifting evening. As Robin and the team took their bows the highly knowledgeable Lichfield Garrick audience got out of their their seats to provide a deserved standing ovation and they knew that whether Robin Windsor is in the Caribbean or in dear Old Blighty – he’ll always “Keeeeeep Dancing”!
The Robin Windsor All Fun Farewell Tour continues its autumnal run, forthcoming dates and venues can be found at:
Photograph courtesy of the Strictly Theatre Company