When a Sheffield actor wanted to pop the question, he made a real song and dance about it and generated an internet hit. Peter Kay reports
THE operation was cloaked in secrecy and planned meticulously from onboard a cruise liner.
Danny Burns would lead a group of fellow singers and dancers from the ship in a routine in St Mark’s Square in Venice in front of his girlfriend, Shonagh Daly.
Crucially, the finale would be the 36-year-old from Sheffield going down on one knee with an engagement ring, watched by the couple’s parents.
And the script went perfectly, with Shonagh taken totally by surprise as a crowd cheered and filmed the occasion on their mobile phones.
Now the couple, both actors who have appeared in West End productions, are planning their wedding day.
Danny was working for the first time on a cruise ship, the Cunard Queen Victoria, which was on a route around the Mediterranean. Shonagh, aged 31, who comes from Limerick in Ireland, had been in troupes on a number of cruises.
“I thought of the idea a couple of months before the day,” said Danny. “I knew my folks would be on the ship with us and had high hopes that Shonagh’s parents would be able to make it as well. Thankfully they did. The Hall and Oates song ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ is our favourite song to dance around like idiots to, so I decided to do a routine to that.
“Luckily we have a great group of dancers on the ship and one of them kindly agreed to help me with the choreography. The biggest problem of course was keeping it a secret from Shonagh.
“We live in each others’ pockets on the ship and getting away for even five minutes generally entails a ‘Where ye going?’ This ended up with me ‘going to the gym’ quite a lot at very strange hours of the evening.
“It seems that everyone on the ship pretty much knew what was going on as no one can keep things to themselves in such an environment. I also knew I wanted to involve both our mums in the dance and told them about it the night before.”
So mums Linda Burns and Ena Daly joined the flashmob of 12 professional dancers and four singers.
Dads Philip Burns, a dentist in Sheffield city centre and Noel Daly, filmed the proceedings, and the footage, called The Proposal, has already attracted more than 9,000 views on You Tube.
Danny said the day was “a mixture of excitement and general fear. Apparently it’s illegal to do something like that in St Mark’s Square so I was a tad worried beforehand that I might not actually get to the proposing part, having been led away in cuffs by two burly Italian coppers.
“Thankfully the day went extremely well and the comments and interest we’ve had since has been slightly overwhelming, although very nice. I’m a very lucky fella to have such a beautiful, talented and intelligent lady I can call my fiancée and my best friend.”
Shonagh, who played Eponine in Les Miserables in London and sang at Ground Zero in New York accompanied by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the victims of 9/11, said: “I didn’t see it coming at all! Danny is obviously a much better actor than I give him credit for and not a bad mover either. It was the best day of my life!”
Danny, a former Birkdale pupil who studied drama at Manchester University, has been acting for 12 years and recently appeared at the National Theatre in Alan Bennett’s Habit Of Art and was shot in the head in an episode of Downton Abbey!
He said: “We’re not sure about the date of the wedding as of yet as we finish this job mid-November and obviously as jobbing actors we don’t know where the next pay cheque is coming from or even where we’re going to settle when we get back to the UK. But the future will be a grand experience with her by my side.”
The couple are due to have a break in Sheffield, arriving today (Thursday) and staying with Danny’s parents in Dore.
Philip said: “It was a complete surprise for Shonagh, a fantastic moment, and very emotional for everybody involved. Some of the people watching were crying. It was the proposal to end all proposals.”