Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s final stage show, The Last Tango, is not only literally the last tango for them, in this production directed by Karen Bruce, the duo also attempt what is arguably their most sophisticated story line and ambitious choreography to date. The preceding Midnight Tango and Dance Til Dawn are light and enjoyable evenings out, however this talented twosome are capable of so much more than the fluff most Strictly spin-offs create. Sadly however, the tone of this latest offering is much the same as the productions which have gone before. Simone and Cacace are faultless and have lost none of their fluidity and athleticism from when they first became UK Ten Dance Champions, their legs a blur as they fizz across the stage. Although as before, I left wishing for a platform where they are able to fully showcase showcase their world class talent uninhibited, and not feel the need to wrap it in a half-baked narrative.
Teddy Kempner plays “old” Vincent. He opens the show reminiscing in the attic about times gone by as he stumbles across battered belongings. It’s a frustratingly limited role for Kempner who is mostly reduced to huffing and sighing as his discoveries of gloves, uniforms and unfortunate Hawaiian shirts carry the narrative along.
Vincent and Flavia’s characters (we never learn their names) fall in love in a romanticized pre-war setting. We see them share the various moments of their early relationship, Summer games of cricket on the green and fish and chips on a park bench. We follow the story of their engagement and marriage until Vincent is called to war and the pain of their separation is portrayed in an emotive and defiant Pasodoble. Until this point the story is relentlessly upbeat and although it’s inoffensive enough I found some moments unbearably twee. The Last Tango of course mostly appeals to a family audience of Strictly fans so such story telling is to be expected, however Vincent and Flavia are so exquisitely skillful they are undoubtedly capable of something a little more demanding emotionally.
The Strictly stars are supported by a highly competent cast, most notably singer Matthew Gent who’s silky voice croons Ballroom classics, Moondance, Save the Last Dance for Me and Beyond the Sea all featuring. The ensemble dancers lead by Diana Girbau maintain energy and pace throughout with enjoyable scene setting allowing the story to be effortlessly. Vicky Gill’s costuming is, as ever, a stunning feature of the evening. Flavia’s ball gown in the honeymoon scene is particularly show-stopping.
Narrative moans aside, it is important to emphasise how phenomenal the stars of the show are. Flavia is utterly alluring, too beautiful to believe. Her solo Pasodoble at the beginning of Act Two was powerful and strong – completely captivating. Vincent is of course as charismatic and as dependable a partner as ever and together the kick and flick across the floor fully displaying their perfect partnership. Their finale Tango is relentless and has been described by them as “unchoreographable”, it’s a genuinely breath-taking display that more than warrants the standing ovation it was rewarded with.
First published on LondonTheatre1.com