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Center Stage

Peter Pans Go Head to Head

1/7/2015

These days anyone who thinks of the sitcom “Growing Pains” probably thinks of Robin Thicke, the young lead, now a rock star. The show’s success, however, depended more on the father, Alan, and since it ended he’s kept busy, too. He’s done movies with Adam Sandler and written bestsellers about parenting, yet he thinks of himself as a song-and-dance man.

“Dancing Pros: Live!” Des Moines Civic Center, Des Moines Performing Arts. Thurs., Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m.

“Dancing Pros: Live!” Des Moines Civic Center, Des Moines Performing Arts. Thurs., Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m.

“I’ve always been a big musical theater fan,” says Thicke, calling from Hollywood. “I loved touring with ‘Chicago,’ back in the ’90s.”

Oh, right: He also appeared on Broadway and took that show on the road. Now Thicke finds himself once more gadding about with a dance program — though acting as emcee rather than performing.

“I wouldn’t dare call myself a dancer, not in front of these folks,” he confesses. “Every one of them’s a Peter Pan.”

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Thicke hosts “Dancing Pros: Live!,” a traveling dance competition. In Des Moines for one night only, it features international champions like Chelsie Hightower. She and others go head to head, working in a variety of styles and costumes from what Thicke calls “dramatic” ballet to contemporary hits by Adele and Rhiannon.

“And the vocals on those songs are all live,” he points out. “We’ve got people off ‘The Voice,’ and they’re live just like the dancers, giving their all.”

So the question becomes: Who did the best? For answers, “Dancing Pros” turns to the audience. Everyone at the show receives a remote, and with this they vote on the winner of each sequence, and finally on the night’s top performer.

“Everyone’s invested,” is how Thicke puts it. “Our best audiences, they want to see ‘Dancing Without the Stars.’ A star might be a little off the beat, but with the talent we put onstage, nobody has to rein themselves in.”

This means, too, that at every stop “you never know how things are going to turn out.” For the master of ceremonies, this adds to fun. It takes Thicke back to the sort of improvisation, the quick-wittedness, he needed as a talk show host.

In that role, back in his native Canada, he set ratings records at the beginning of the 1980s. Here in the States, hosting “Thicke of the Night,” he didn’t do so well, but one of his favorite gags brought him to Iowa.

“We had a competition,” he explains. “Towns all over the country applied to become my home in the States — the place most like where I was raised in Canada.”

The gimmick actually calls to mind the competition he’s got going now, with “Dancing Pros,” but Thicke can’t be sure what gave him the latest idea. All he knows is that the earlier winner, his American hometown, was Boone.

“It was great fun,” he recalls, “I was in a parade! I rode a fire truck! I say proudly, I’m a son of Des Moines.”

Overheard in the Lobby: Jan. 11, at 2 p.m., Living History Farms will stage “Map of My Kingdom,” by the Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander. CV

John Domini
“Play Mate”

John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.

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