The long-awaited return of live entertainment in the West End of London

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The West End of London is a hotbed of live entertainment. Besides New York’s Broadway, nowhere else on the planet can you find such concentration of performing arts. Within a two-mile radius right in the centre of the capital you can count more than 39 theatres, entertaining almost daily audiences from across the globe with concerts, theatre, musicals and dance. This is until the global pandemic shut their doors. With every wave of the virus ending, there was hope that venues would re-open. Artists desperately longing to return to the stage to do what they have trained and dedicated their lives to. Audiences too eager to return and experience world class live entertainment and see their idols and inspiration live. The grim statistics though quickly quashed these hopes as infection numbers rose again, and more and stricter lockdowns were announced.  

In late spring 2021 with the UK vaccination programme gathering pace and infection numbers coming down, a clearer roadmap to remove restrictions was announced. This time around some of the West End venues were ready to finally reopen.

One of the first shows in the famous London Palladium Theatre just behind the famous Oxford Circus was Here Come the Boys. A dance spectacular featuring some of the professional dancers from the acclaimed UK television show Strictly Come Dancing, including the Italian professional dancing couple Graziano Di Prima and his fiancé Giada Lini. Italian audiences will most likely recognise them from the Italian TV show Amici.

On the evening, the excitement of the audience patiently waiting in line duly observing social distancing was palpable. Paparazzi had gathered, ready to snap any celebrity in sight.

In the theatre the different families and social bubbles were seated with plenty of empty seats in between them, all required to wear face masks. Then the lights went low, and the show began. The atmosphere was electric, everyone was swept up in the joy of finally be able to be moved again. And boy was everyone moved. 

There simply is nothing quite like a live performance.  The professional dancers entertaining with a bedazzling display choreographed to a mix of all musical styles from ballroom to Latin. All the while interacting with the audience, eager to engage and clap at their command. 

The interval almost came almost too soon, and everyone was reminded about the strange times we live in these days with a socially distanced bar experience, where all drinks, rigorously premixed, had to be brought back to the seats

The second part was even more intense with the audience being invited to dance along and an impromptu mini dance lesson. The encore was an eruption of lights and sounds and one did really forget for moment the bleakness of the past year, swept up in the rhythm and song.

While filing out into the balmy London night, the stream of smiling people could only remark and agree about how special the show had been and how lucky they felt to be back in the theatre.

The Italian stars did not disappoint and came to greet their fans showing their appreciation of the audience.

Giada, Graziano, how was the experience to finally be able to perform to a live audience again?

The experience was fantastic. The theatre is one of London most iconic venues and is so intimate. You can really feel the audience. The interaction, the immediate feedback, it is really an incredible feeling, one we missed so much over the past pandemic months.

Were you a little bit anxious to be so close to so many people again and were you worried meeting the fans?

The production team and organisation has been fantastic and social distancing rules are in place. All the crew is very frequently and regularly tested, so really making you feel quite safe. The English fans are also very respectful of personal space. We love what we do and our best reward is a grateful audience, really no worries.

How does this evening rank in your special moments?

London, West End, one of the first shows after the pandemic, with such an amazing team and choreography. We worked hard on all the routines and the appreciation on the people faces. After such a long time being able to do what we love, and it is all coming together. Priceless, it will stay in our memories forever.

*Barbara Panetta, scrittrice

Barbara Panetta