DANCE 'TIL DAWN AT THE NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM
Theatre Run: Monday 21 - Saturday 26 April 2014
Performance Reviewed: Monday 21 April 2014 (Press Night)
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
I loved Midnight Tango - last years dance vehicle for Strictly veterans Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace. It was a fresh, confident and incredibly charismatic outing that allowed its prolific and dynamic leading duo to tell their story almost exclusively through some genuinely stunning dance. This year, Simone and Cacace return for another UK theatre tour with Dance ‘Til Dawn, and the question of how this new production could be distinctive and original enough from its predecessor to warrant a ticket purchase was the prevailing thought upon going in to what could very easily have been Midnight Tango Mk.2.
Thankfully, and to some extent rather surprisingly, Dance ‘Til Dawn could not be a more different beast from its predecessor. The expected array of exquisite and diverse dance numbers are, naturally, present and accounted for, but they are nestled comfortably within a wonderfully self-aware rip on the Hollywood song and dance musicals of old that frequently bandies somewhere between parody and pastiche. And, coming along for the ride this time, in addition to the inclusion of a more palatable and involved (though gleefully atypical) plot and talking characters, is a slew of jukebox musical numbers (even including some contemporary offerings from the likes of Adele, Paolo Nutini etc.) that similarly manage to surprise and impress by dint of their quality and how well they work within the context of the show. On paper, Dance ‘Til Dawn sounds like it should be a identity-confused dilution of the successful Midnight Tango formula, shoehorning musical numbers in when some may feel they aren’t necessary, but it is in fact a joyous, exuberant celebration of song, dance, glitz, glamour and all the other fundamental ingredients of Hollywood old.
It’s all deliciously tongue-in-cheek, and Dance ‘Til Dawn mercifully knows to poke fun at itself and the era it is invoking throughout, and whilst the kind of deliberate mistakes and fourth-wall breaking that goes on throughout has all been done before, that the show never takes itself too seriously only lends to the appeal of the deliberately campy tale being told. It is the Golden Age of Hollywood, and leading lady of the silver screen, Sadie Strauss (Flavia) is in an unhappy relationship with co-star Bobby Burns, who also happens to be bedding gangster moll Lana Clemenza (Abbie Osmon). When the affair is caught on camera, and risks going public, Lana takes matters into her own hands, events take a downward spiral and up-and-coming actor Tony (Simone) must team up with Strauss to prove his innocence and reveal the truth behind a grisly murder.
It’s a disarmingly fun and well-paced (clocking in at around the 2 hour mark) romp through a variety of set pieces, sequences and even genres that, as mentioned, keeps the lightness and laughs high on the agenda. Much of this is courtesy of its narrator, the disgruntled, sardonic Tommy Dubrowski, played to comedic perfection by Teddy Kempner, who churns out the self-referential quips and sarcastic jibes with real relish. He is met with a show-stopping turn from Abbie Osmon as sultry villainess Lana Clemenza, who plays out as something akin to Singin’ in the Rain’s Lina Lamont dialled up to 11. It’s a real tour-de-force performance, with Osmon raising the roof courtesy of some truly terrific vocal performances (her ‘That’s Life’ being an obvious highlight) and similarly impressive comic chops. Likewise, the stellar vocals of Oliver Darley accompany many of the shows dance numbers, and he pulls off some truly iconic numbers including the likes of ‘Moon River’ and ‘Feeling Good’ to genuinely stunning effect.
However, what the majority will come to Dance ‘Til Dawn for is undoubtedly Vincent and Flavia, and the duo once again demonstrate the reason behind their international standing and repute with some utterly spellbinding choreography and dance. Whilst perhaps not as explicitly and exclusively a dance showcase as Midnight Tango was, there is nonetheless a flurry of different dance styles and approach on display - Foxtrot, Charleston, Quickstep, Jive, Rumba, Waltzes and of course the duos signature Argentine Tango - and it is all executed with impeccable precision and faultless technique. Together they are almost overwhelmingly sublime, and with the assistance of director and co-choreographer Karen Bruce, have brought to the stage genuinely some of the finest demonstrations and evocations of dance you could hope to see. From the crackling tension and sexuality of their Tango to the soulful elegance and reciprocity of their Waltzes and Rumbas, they seem astonishingly adept at what seems like the whole gamut of what ballroom dance can offer, and the discipline and mastery of dance on display is completely beguiling.
Anyone with even a passing interest in dance should make a priority of checking out Dance ‘Til Dawn, for the talent and artistry on display, particularly by its superlative leading duo, is nothing short of world class. For everyone else, it is a surprisingly accessible and light-hearted affair, decidedly more so than Midnight Tango, and offers plenty in the way of humour and more conventional musical ingredients, all of which are pulled off to a genuinely impressive standard of quality. The past month alone has seen such juggernauts as the likes of West Side Story, Evita and Singin’ in the Rain grace the stages of Midlands theatre, and that I comfortably give Dance ‘Til Dawn the same rating should say everything. It’s an exceptionally well produced, stunningly performed, irrepressible and thoroughly impressive evening of entertainment that provides song and dance at some of the highest imaginable standard. And in many ways, in closing it reminds me of Woody Allen’s wonderfully satirical 1994 film Bullets Over Broadway, for, like that film, Dance ‘Til Dawn is the kind of borderline parody of a genre or idea that has so much fun both ridiculing and celebrating its source material and inspiration that it goes full circle and ends up becoming an exquisite example of that very thing done very right indeed.
(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * * (5 out of 5 Stars)
+ Flawless, world-class choreography and dancing courtesy of Simone and Cacace
+ Unexpectedly brilliant musical numbers and performances
+ Kempner and Osmon are tremendous fun in their roles
+ A hybrid of different styles and ideas that works splendidly well
+ An absolute must-see for dance and Strictly enthusiasts
- Some of the dialogue and company singing in particular gets drowned out by the band
- It not being quite so purely dance-centric an experience as Midnight Tango may be a deterrent to some
DANCE 'TIL DAWN is running at the BIRMINGHAM NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE from Monday 21 to Saturday 26 April 2014.
Alternatively telephone the New Alexandra Theatre’s booking line direct on 0844 871 3011.
Press tickets for this performance of Dance 'Til Dawn were provided courtesy of the New Alexandra Theatre directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.