Review Round-up: Strictly dancers Tango into Aldwych
Having dazzled television audiences for six series of the BBC's competition with their tango routines, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace created their own live show, which is co-produced by former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips.
Set in a late-night bar in downtown Buenos Aires, Simone and Cacace are joined by a cast of ten dancers, directed by Olivier Award-winning choreographer Karen Bruce.
“There has been a creditable tradition of dance triumphing in West End houses for commercial 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 … 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 returns … 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 … But Midnight Tango lacks any kind of dramatic motor to sustain its two-hour traffic, substituting clichés … Teddy Kempner… finds himself in the “silly old goat” comedy part, which is neither funny nor even really a part … 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.”
“Jorge Luis Borges called the tango 'a vertical rape', but at the Aldwych Theatre it is a fizzing display of slashing footwork and yielding torsos, with Cacace and Simone as leaders of the rout. There is a clever setting of a decrepit bar by Morgan Large, admirably lit by James Whiteside … It goes without saying that Cacace, beautiful, chic, mistress of every step, is a triumphant centerpiece … Their playing has the verve and gut-wrenching rhythmic drive… their account of the scores – especially marvels by Astor Piazzolla – has the earthy vitality, the urban chic, so central to tango’s music and steps. Whatever the artificialities of the staging, here is the tango, raw, intoxicating, speaking with its true voice … For the violinist Ros Stephen, the pianist Jonathan Taylor and their colleagues, much admiration, as for the tenor Miguel Angel. The production, by Karen Bruce, does exactly what needs to be done to frame its stars and its cast. Tango rules!”
“Cacace and Simone providing old-fashioned star presence and poise … Everybody gets to dance some spectacular steps … It’s a good-humoured format that builds up atmosphere and shows off its stars … They’re tireless performers, dancing for most of the running time: nobody’s short-changed by this show … Their dancing is sleek, with fluid lines and speedy footwork. Cacace is both lyrical and strong, with gorgeously open movement through her arms and torso. Simone partners her with sinuous authority … The bar is run by an older couple, Tricia Deighton and Teddy Kempner … Their storyline is predictable but done with warmth, and helps to build an onstage community. The band, the excellent Tango Siempre, play on stage, with taut rhythm and instrumentation … The reconciliation dance is full of sweeping acrobatics, Cacace flinging herself into Simone’s arms with hair-raising lifts and throws. The huge gestures could be overwrought, but their control is superb … I preferred their showstopping final number, with its incredibly fast footwork, swivelling hips and intricate kicks and flicks. Simone and Cacace dance it with exuberant delight.”
“The excellent house band Tango Siempre play on stage throughout, led by violinist Ros Stephen who can coax sounds from her instrument rarely heard in concert halls … Clearly, this is a showcase for Vincent and Flavia but they have surrounded themselves with good dancers like Giraldo Diomar and the leggy Romina Godoy. The comedy element in the backstory featuring the corpulent club owner (Teddy Kempner) and his scowling wife (Tricia Deighton) is a welcome addition to what would otherwise prove a rather intense evening … No matter, it is a feelgood evening performed with gusto and has several high points … The stars themselves give it plenty of welly, especially Flavia whose mahogany-muscled calves, huge smile and oversized eyes make her seem like the Dahlia Lavi of Dance … Cooler and more contained, Vincent has a deceptive strength and easy agility. His trick of dropping his partner to the floor and catching her within inches of concussion works every time. Hugely entertaining.”
“Strictly Come Dancing stars Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace hang their tango showcase on a narrative thread … But what looks at first like a smart dramatic decision comes to seem like a lack of nerve. They don't fully trust their raw material. In moments of high passion they abandon one of the most passionate dances on earth and turn to a formulaic lift-stretch-and-swing species of Broadway. What should be the hottest parts of Midnight Tango have all the Argentinian flavour of downtown Port Stanley. By the same token, some of the best tango dancers are in their fifties and sixties. So what a waste to have Teddy Kempner and Tricia Dreighton as the older couple - two fine actors who can do little more with their revivifying dance than play it for laughs. On the plus side, the stars - while trying too hard to channel Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse - are glamorous and likeable, the kicks and hooks look life-threatening, and in Giraldo Diomar the show has a filthy, velvet-footed Dick Dastardly of a villain.”
"Stylish carpaccio-coloured set (by Morgan Large), a superb six-piece band … Midnight Tango proves Cacace and Simone to be far superior to the television programme that has made their name … Cacace…is all attack and tension; she finds extraordinary angles with the twists of her body, and her footwork is like quicksilver. Meanwhile Simone, a wonderfully relaxed dancer, is a selfless partner dedicated to showing off his girl’s fabulous high jinks … The couple perform a stunning rumba like a lovers’ tug of war, and a climactic tango like the most passionate argument ever conducted: for these moments alone, Midnight Tango comes highly recommended … It is nobody’s fault, least of all the exemplary performers, that there is only so much that can be done with a show of this kind … A comedy partnership between the bartender (Teddy Kempner) and his wife (Tricia Deighton)… is perhaps more crowd-pleasing then aesthetically satisfying. But in the end it is simply tango, tango, tango. Not that this matters, when Cacace and Simone are on stage to lift it into the realms of dance artistry.”
“One of the more refreshing things about this show is that, unlike so many of its predecessors, it doesn’t attempt to unspool the entire history of tango … Credit for this well-tooled production’s straightforward theatricality perhaps belongs to the director, Karen Bruce … Or maybe it should be shared with Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, who are not only its headliners but also the co-choreographers … The single set and the lighting are both atmospheric … Simone provides exemplary support for Cacace’s slinky sexuality … The show’s minimal storyline entails a rivalry between Simone and a dark-clad male (Giraldo Diomar) for Cacace’s affections. This banal, flimsy stab at drama leads to the weakest scene, a choreographed fight that looks and feels slack and perfunctory. What works much better is the contribution of Tricia Deighton and Teddy Kempner, actors (rather than dancers) of a certain age (not to mention shape) who play the bar staff. Their roles might be there only for comic relief, but they lend Midnight Tango just the touch of heart it needs.”
- Amy Sheppard