Singing Gangnam Style was quite an experience says Strictly Come Dancing’s Lance Ellington, in Colchester tonight
- Credit: Archant
We speak to the voice of Strictly Come Dancing, Lance Ellington, who brings Broadway glamour to Colchester tonight.
Watching former MP Ed Balls dancing to Gangnam Style was one of last year’s most memorable TV moments. Spare a thought for Lance Ellington, who had to sing it.
“That was quite an experience. They first sent me a sheet of Korean lyrics on the Wednesday. I said ‘Perhaps I could get them phonetically written down because, funnily enough, I don’t speak Korean’,” laughs the platinum award-winning singer. “It was a bit of a joke – ‘here’s your task this week’.”
Most people would kill to be sat where he is come Saturday night.
“We get to see everything – and I mean everything – from close proximity. Being a live show, it’s eyes down, try not to make any mistakes. You’re so in the moment, trying to make sure you sing what the celebs are used to hearing and don’t suddenly change a phrase or trip over a lyric which can be a bit of a tongue twister if you’re not used to the language.
“We’re not in all the numbers all the time so we get moments to watch the dance in a bit more detail, although normally it’s from behind the dance, so I always try to watch the show later on and catch up,” says Lance, who’s quite disciplined when it comes to looking after his voice; especially when appearing on Strictly. In first thing Saturday after a three-hour rehearsal the night before, it’s often a 15-hour day.
He’s been with the BBC One show 13 years, joining in series three. It’s a become a big part of his life.
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“The wonderful thing about that show is you get to cover so much diverse material. One weekend I ended up singing Nat King Cole one minute, then I was doing Meat Loaf the next.
“I don’t think anyone at the time, if you’d said this will run and run, would’ve believed it; it’s grown into a monster,” laughs Lance, juggling his Strictly commitments with his own tour, Lance Ellington Sings Broadway. “I’m very proud to be part of it.”
One of Lance’s favourite Strictly moments was performing one of his father’s songs with Sir Bruce Forsyth, who died earlier this year.
“We got to do The Three Bears on a Sunday night results show. It really was one of the highlights of my career. Getting to work with Bruce, who’s been Mr Saturday Night for many decades, was incredible. What an amazing, wonderful career he had.
“For me, growing up watching him on TV, it was very sad for us when he passed and it was incredibly emotional in the studio. I’ve never witnessed that many people in such a heartfelt sort of atmosphere.
“As a tribute to him I got to sing on the song Fly Me To The Moon... he started and then they went to the live band and myself singing the second half. It was a wonderful tribute to Sir Bruce and he will be missed for sure because he had something very special.”
He puts the series’ continuing popularity down to the nation’s love of seeing people step outside their comfort zone. Watching amateur dancers go from strength to strength is one of his favourite things too.
“I think this year is strong, there’s quite a few this year that could do very well.”
His show features favourites from musicals like Guys and Dolls, Les Misérables, South Pacific and Wicked and more.
“Over the years I’ve had the chance to sing some of these songs. One of my favourites is This Is The Moment from Jekyll and Hyde, so I get to sing that in the show. A lady called Zoe Nicholas – who sings with Brian May, Queen, Luther Vandross; she’s worked with many people over the years – is on tour with me and we get to do some wonderful duets together, like Last Night of the World from Miss Saigon, the theme from Beauty and the Beast...
“It was really hard when we were putting this show together, Ed Barker and myself, to decide what to put in and what not to put in. There’s just so many great songs from Broadway. He’s done some wonderful new arrangements,” says Lance, who first met Ed, his sax soloist and the show’s musical director, when they recorded the song When You Smile together. It went to number one in the US independent pop charts and on the indie adult contemporary chart.
“Then of course there’s some classic arrangements of things like Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific. It’s really nice because it’s quite different for me to be able to get my teeth into some of this stuff.”
Lance will also share stories from the Strictly set and the stars he’s worked with, including Sting, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Lionel Richie and George Michael, to name a few.
“I’ve been very lucky. Working with Tina Turner was amazing because we actually got to sing on mic together. A lot of the time you don’t get to actually sing in close proximity with these people, although generally they’ve been there when I’ve worked with them. To sing on Foreign Affair, that included Steamy Windows... it was very exciting.
“I did two sessions with Michael Jackson. The second time he was in the studio and brought his kids. It was an amazing experience. It’s lovely to be sitting there face to face with these people you’ve admired in the business for many years. I feel very blessed.”
Lance is the son of legendary 1950s’ band leader Ray Ellington, a star of BBC Radio programme The Goon Show. Lance played him in the movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, alongside Geoffrey Rush and Charlize Theron, which inspired him to record his first two albums, Lessons In Love and There Comes a Time.
“There was always great music by great singers played in the house; Sinatra and Nat King Cole, I grew up with that. I think I was either going to embrace it (music) or I was going to go completely in the opposite direction. I have such a passion for great songs, melodies and lyrics, so it was inevitable I was going to end up going that way,” he laughs.
He feels blessed to making a living out of something he loves so much. He likes never knowing what going to come along next, too.
“I get to do so many different aspects of the business, which keeps it fresh. I get to do Strictly, go on tour doing my own thing, go on tour with Anton and Erin Boag after the series finishes, studio work and work with other people.”
Lance says he’ll stick with Strictly as long as it’ll have him.
“I have a ball in the show. There have been changes along the way; in a show that has that longevity there has to be. Anton (Du Beke), who I work a lot with outside of Strictly, and Brendan (Cole) are the two originals hanging on in there and are incredibly popular. While it’s got those characters in it, that family entertainment value.... there’s very little around like that. That’s really the magic of the show.”
See Lance Ellington Sings Broadway at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre tonight.