Go back a decade or so and it’s unlikely that this sort of show would actually exist. Such is the huge popularity of the Beeb’s Strictly Come Dancing though that you’ll now find a number of its professional dancers cha cha cha-ing out and about on tours of their own (on top of the ever popular post season celeb arena shows). Of course part of the Strictly appeal is watching the celebs tackle the dances (with varying degrees of success). Stripped of this element how would a ‘proper’ dance show compare for sheer entertainment value? Wisely the producers have tapped in to the sometimes more light hearted element of Strictly with the addition of a comedic old couple who run the bar that acts as the setting for the entire show. Brilliantly played with real pathos by Tricia Deighton and Anthony Renshaw they bookend the show, starting off as the archetypal bickering man and wife who’ve been married forever and a day before gradually rediscovering their love as Vincent and Flavia’s own relationship is tested in the sizzling bar room setting. Ahhhh bless.
Speaking of the setting the set itself – an authentic looking old school Argentinean bar – is particularly convincing and given the unseasonably warm temperatures outside it didn’t take a huge amount of imagination to believe you were in Buenos Aires rather than Brum. As it’s there all the time there’s also substance to it that multi-set shows lack and I was half tempted to wander up on to the stage for a cheeky rum or two after the performance...
It’s the fusion of music and dance though that everyone’s here to see though and thanks to the show’s band Tango Siempre (an existing group that’s been playing tango music across the world since 1998) the accompaniment is more than a match for the world class dancers. Acclaimed violinist Ros Stephen drives much of the music, teasing some truly exquisite (and downright sexy) sounds from her instrument. The band’s joined by caramel voiced singer Miguel Angel on some of the numbers too. Born in Puerto Rico he’s perfectly at home at the heart of the show and, although I didn’t understand a word of the lyrics, you don’t need to a degree in Spanish to get what he’s on about. Ahem.
Vincent and Flavia are well known to millions of course and the heat between the pair is enough to melt the glasses behind the bar.
The other dancers are every bit as impressive though and at times it was difficult to know which pair of gazelle like legs being wrapped around which pert, manly bottom to watch.
What little I know about great tango is taken from Strictly’s gloriously camp panel of experts but newcomers to the whole thing couldn’t fail to be impressed by the sheer energy, co-ordination and passion in every twirl, twist and embrace. One dancer in particular seemed to melt backwards under a chair in the kind of move that would keep a chiropractor in business for life. Sexy, funny and passionate, Midnight Tango’s a surprisingly accessible dance show with more than enough going on to entertain even Strictly non believers. Tan-go and see it...or, to put it another way, Cacace it if you can.
Midnight Tango is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until May 11th before tangoing off on tour across the UK. Dates here.
All photographs courtesy of Manuel Harlan.