Brendan Cole, along with fellow veteran, Anton du Beke must surely be the most recognisable face from the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. The show has boosted it’s stars profiles so much that now many are able to embark on successful UK theatre tours of their own and Cole is no different.
Two years ago, I saw Cole’s second tour, Licence to Thrill and enjoyed it immensely, it was glitzy, fun, cheeky and made good use of a talented cast of dancers and musicians. Now, two years later surely Cole must have changed things up at bit to pack in the local crowds year after year? Sadly not. New show A Night to Remember is a carbon copy of his past offerings but Cole won’t have seen a need to change as he appeals to a demographic who only want that carbon copy that they have seen before, just to different songs and with a slightly modified cast.
Negativity aside, what Cole and company do, they do well. Cole’s leading lady Fauve Hautot (a professional of the French equivalent of Strictly, Danse avec les stars, who has lifted the glitter-ball herself) is entirely engaging and has a wild unpredictability that makes her incredibly watchable. She is quick to flash a wicked smile at the end of every number and my eyes were increasingly drawn to her throughout.
Indeed, Cole’s supporting cast are all of a high pedigree. Most have had a taste of fame as backing dancers on past series of Strictly. Others have featured in the most recent series of Britain’s Got Talent with Latin dance troupe, Kings and Queens. Ryan MchShane and partner, petite Ksenia Zsihotska are brilliantly energetic and full of bounce even in the closing Jive number to Yes!, there is not the slightest sign of heavy limbs. A Night to Remember contains numbers that Cole does not feature in at all, a nice touch in what could have been a self-indulgent romp through the ten Ballroom and Latin dancers with Cole always centre stage.
A particular stand out number is Cole’s Waltz with Hautot to Des’Ree’s Kissing You. Danced barefoot it is a contemporary take on what Cole does best, it’s powerful but still has a soft romantic edge. Hautot’s back bends are simply super human too. It would be wrong not to mention at this point, the skill and talent of the two vocalists, Iain Mackenzie and Julia Maguire, both are pitch perfect throughout and deservedly get to take centre stage on two occasions throughout the evening.
As always, there is a Strictly themed Q&A. Cole banters away confidently between numbers too but I dislike this penchant for making apparently off the cuff remarks and asides that one knows he must have made at the twenty other venues he has already visited. Of course, the session is full of the usual “Will you marry me?” hysteria. There is a particularly memorable request for a post show drink from a lady called Myrtle. “Myrtle, baby!” Cole coos. Myrtle, it emerges, is eagerly poised in the front row, it’s fair to say she is of advanced years. Cole jumps from the stage with gusto, plants a kiss on her cheek and makes her night. This is showman Cole in his element.
Cole’s latest tour is certainly what his fans want and so my disappointment in the lack to change to the format is essentially irrelevant as Cole and his Strictly counter parts will always pack in the crowds with this giddy crowd pleasing stuff year after year. There is very little incentive to break the mold, Strictly schmaltz and amusing anecdotes interspersed with some (at times) unimaginative choreography and glittering gowns are the order of the day. There’s no denying that the Myrtle’s of Croydon certainly got A Night to Remember and that is really all that needs to be achieved here.
First published on LondonDance.com