Midnight Tango at The Phoenix Theatre 05/02/13

Having visited the Aldwych Theatre this time last year to get my first glimpse of Midnight Tango I left the theatre content with my evening of gancho’s and glamorous women in a down town Buenos Aires bar. However, I also left certain that this Arlene Phillips production brought nothing unconventional to any other Ballroom and Latin based show I’ve seen in recent years. On a second viewing I cannot help but feel the production would work infinitely better if renamed An Evening of Tango with Vincent and Flavia and the narrative dropped completely.

That white dress Rumba

That white dress Rumba

First things first, the night I attended this time around was marred by a severe lack of the much hyped appearance of Russell Grant. An unusually subdued Grant took to the stage before tonight’s show apologising for his absence. However he concluded his short talk by encouraging us to sit back and enjoy a show that is so “special, exotic and incredible you really do wonder how they do it.”

The set is more extravagant than before and creates an atmospheric backdrop transporting the audience to the location where Tango was first born as the dance men had to master if they wanted to attract a single young woman. The supporting dancers parade seductively about the stage surrounded by singers and musicians as we await the entrance of the two stars. This set up continues for the duration of the show, with Vincent and Flavia always taking centre stage, not that anyone is complaining as they dance sublimely. Both are more than familiar with the demands of the performance now, flawlessly polished they are able to focus further on the acting required to endow the narrative with more credibility. To summarise, Pablo and Sofia are a young couple about town until love rival Juan makes his entrance, a traditional “baddie”, whose arrival is announced by dramatic changes in lighting and swift banging of drums. Pablo and Juan then have what is quite possibly the campest stage fight ever choreographed and the rest of the show is spent with the audience wondering how Pablo will win Sofia back.

Grant’s absence is a great shame and leaves the show feeling a little stale from its last West End run. I couldn’t help but imagine the wild hysteria some of Carlos’ moments might have created had Grant been well enough to perform, as well as enhancing the subplot.

Grumbles aside, the second act features a truly breathtaking number from the show’s stars which leaves you wondering how they create the same heartfelt emotion every night. The way Vincent holds and supports Flavia in the lifts and drops is so meaningful and passionate it is impossible to tear your eyes from them, their history together in real life intensifying these moments more than the storyline ever could.  Midnight Tango is definitely worth catching if you are new to this much-loved production, however for those who saw it last year there is not a great deal more to be seen.

Originally published in Dance Today – March 2013

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