Massive fan ERIN HUTCHEON talks to Strictly Come Dancing’s true gentleman Anton Du Beke about flirting, dancing, the loveliness of Northern Irish audiences and his new dance partner Summer Strallen ahead of his Belfast show
“Hello, is that Anton?” I say in my poshest Northern Ireland accent.
“Hello, Erin, how are you?” comes the reply from the other end of the phone.
“I am over the moon to be on the phone to you,” I say. And it’s true because I’m not just a journalist, I’m a massive fan.
I’m talking to Anton Du Beke from Strictly Come Dancing and I’ve just taken great joy in adding his number to the list of contacts in my mobile phone. I resist telling Anton his number has been burning a hole in my pocket all weekend, and it’s taken strong willpower for me to resist sending him even one sneaky text.
But it’s time to get down to some serious interviewing.
“I’m going to spend the next ten minutes flirting with you,” I tell him. “I’ll probably never get to spend another ten minutes with you so I’m making the most of it.”
“Fill your boots, Erin,” he says. “Fill your boots.”
Already he’s put me at ease. But then Anton really is one of life’s true gentlemen. With impeccable manners you just know he’s one of those men who’ll insist on opening the car door for his lady friends or helping you on with your coat.
The Strictly Come Dancing star arrives in Ireland next week for just two performances of his Ballroom to Broadway show – one in Belfast next Friday night followed by a matinee in Dublin on Saturday.
Anton’s dance partner Erin Boag is pregnant with her first child so this year Anton’s doing the tour solo, alongside special guest star Summer Strallen.
“Is there a vacancy for a new Erin?” is my next question for Anton.
I mean, I can’t sing, I definitely can’t dance – but I do have the right name.
“If you can fit into the frocks, you’re in,” he says.
I put down the Galaxy bar and resolve to do better at Weightwatchers this week. There’s always next year!
“It’s true what they say, there’s no crowd like an Irish crowd,” says Anton. “You are just a great bunch, you’re always so generous and you like having a good time. It’s super, you’re a lovely bunch, I can’t deny it.”
Ever the gentleman, Anton’s keen to talk about his co- star Summer Strallen.
“When Erin told me she was going to have a baby and that she wouldn’t be able to do the tour this year I had my wishlist of what I wanted to do for my style of show, and have a cross over into Broadway.
“And Summer was at the top of my list to be my leading girl. She’s just finished Top Hat and previously starred in Love Never Dies (the long- awaited sequel to Phantom of the Opera).
“It’s a bit different doing the show without Erin.
“I’m looking forward to hearing questions from the audience when we’re over in Belfast. But the names always catch us out, especially when we have to sign the programmes.”
It’s early in the year but Anton says he hopes to return to Strictly Come Dancing, especially after making it all the way to November with partner Fiona Fullerton in the last series.
“Fiona knew all the steps and in the right order,” he says, “I couldn’t ask for more. She’s a lovely girl. It was a good year. We had a lot of fun.”
But he shies away when asked to name who his ideal celebrity partner would be.
“I never really mind,” he says. “For example, I would never have chosen Anne Widdecombe as a partner on Strictly but if I hadn’t have danced with her I would have missed out on all that fun we had together. I like people to have a nice time, whether they are coming to see a show I am in or whether I’m dancing with them on Strictly Come Dancing.”
Before I know it, my allotted ten minutes with Anton are up and it’s time to say goodbye.
“You’re a lovely girl, Erin, I’m very fond of you,” he says as we sign off.
“You’ve made a wee Northern Ireland girl very happy,” I tell him, and the click signals the end of our call. But I still have his mobile number, I might text him later in the week...
Ballroom To Broadway, Waterfront, January 31. Call box office on 02890 334455.