There has been a creditable tradition of dance triumphing in West End houses
for commercial runs. Cats put dance as the chief story-telling
mechanism of a British musical. More recently, Kate Prince’s sensational
Into the Hoods and more recently Some Like It Hip-Hop have
brought street dance to the service of classic stories.
In the decades
in-between, Tap Dogs, Hot Shoe Shuffle and Fosse have
enjoyed successful runs. Midnight Tango, sadly, falls far short of
its predecessors. Nobody doubts that Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone can
dance brilliantly and deserve all of their numerous accolades. Everyone
likes a bit of Argentine passion. But with no narrative to give it purpose
or visual variation to give it surprise, the relentless repetition of the
same signature steps, however brilliantly executed, suffers diminishing
The disappointment is not for lack of talent in the enterprise. Morgan Large
delivers another of his striking sets; Gareth Owen resists the urge to
maximise the volumes and gives the show a restrained but zealous sound
design. Arlene Phillips (“a showbiz legend” says her programme biography) is
the producer. Karen Bruce, a wonderful choreographer in her own right, is
But Midnight Tango lacks any kind of dramatic motor to sustain its
two-hour traffic, substituting cliches (even inducing hisses for perhaps the
least frightening fight - danced or otherwise - ever seen on a stage) and
padding everything else with a hurricane of flicking heels and extended back
legs, accompanied by easy-listening South American music and more glissandos
than have been heard in one show since the death of Jerry Lee Lewis.
upsetting of all, the great Teddy Kempner - a performer who’s played lead
parts in musicals for decades - finds himself in the “silly old goat” comedy
part, which is neither funny nor even really a part. Let’s hope that that
someone gives him a proper West End role sharpish.
If tango is your life and soul, this is certainly the place to see it
performed with expertise and energy, but don’t expect to see anything you
haven’t seen lots before. If tango is something you can take or leave, you
may feel £56 is a bit much for a show which may generate a lot of heat but
left me cold.