Making a song and dance out of Venice proposal

AS romantic locations go, there are few to beat Venice, and while many nervous men hatch plans to pop the question in the Italian city, few have the ambition to stage their own musical production in one of its most iconic places.

Thousands of tourists flock to St Mark’s Square every day, and while many marvel at the intricate architecture of the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile, few would expect to witness a song and dance of the type put on by Danny Burns.

Mr Burns, a professional actor who currently works as an entertainer on cruise ships, hit on his idea after the liner he and his girlfriend Shonagh Daly currently work on was scheduled to take in Venice at the beginning of September.

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Before it docked, he and some of his colleagues rehearsed the routine so that when the Cunard Queen Victoris arrived in the city, they would be drilled perfectly, but it was a struggle to keep it a secret on board ship.

However, all concerned managed to keep a lid on their excitement, and on Wednesday, September 5 the script went perfectly as the group went on a trip to “see the sights”.

The 36-year-old led his group of singers and dancers, which included both his own mother and Miss Daly’s, in a routine in the world famous square watched by Shonagh and a crowd of onlookers.

The group danced to the Hall and Oates song You Make My Dreams Come True before Mr Burns went down on one knee, produced an engagement ring and proposed to 31-year-old Irish born Miss Daly.

She accepted and now the couple, who are both actors and have appeared in West End productions, are planning their wedding.

Danny’s father, Sheffield-based dentist Philip Burns filmed the whole incident and the footage, called The Proposal, has been put on the internet.

The show, which features 12 professional dancers along with the two mothers and four singers from the Queen Victoria, has already attracted almost 10,000 viewers on the video site YouTube.

Mr Burns said: “I thought of the idea a couple of months before the day. I knew my folks would be on the ship with us and hoped Shonagh’s parents would be on board as well.

“Thankfully they were. The Hall and Oates song is our favourite so I decided to do a routine to that. Luckily we have a group of great dancers on the ship and one of them kindly offered to help me with the choreography.

“The biggest problem was keeping it from Shonagh. We live in each other’s pockets on the ship and I had to tell Shonagh I was going to the gym when I went off to rehearse.

“It seems everyone on the ship apart from Shonagh knew what was going on.

“Apparently it’s illegal to do something like that in St Mark’s Square and I was a little concerned.

“I had visions of being led off in handcuffs by a couple of Italian cops before I had chance to propose but thankfully they never appeared and it all went smoothly.

“The comments and interest we have had since has been amazing. I’m lucky to have someone like Shonagh.”

Mr Burns, a former pupil at Sheffield’s Birkdale School who has appeared in television costume drama Downton Abbey and at the National Theatre.

He added: “We haven’t fixed a date for the wedding yet but the proposal was certainly was a day to remember.”

Miss Daly, who played Eponine in Les Miserables in the West End and sang at Ground Zero in New York accompanied by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the victims of 9/11 added: “I didn’t see it coming at all.

“Danny is obviously a better actor than I gave him credit for and not a bad mover either. It was the best day of my life.”

The couple were due to have a break in Sheffield starting yesterday and were planning to stay with Mr Burns’ parents who live in the Dore area of the city.

Mr Burns’ father who runs a dental practice in Sheffield city centre, said: “It was a complete surprise for Shonagh, a fantastic moment and very emotional for everyone involved.

“Some of the people watching were crying. It was the proposal to end all proposals.”