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Midnight Tango – New Theatre, Cardiff

Choreography: Vincent Simone &Flavia Cacace

Director: Karen Bruce

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels:

[Rating:4.5]

Midnight TangoStunning tango routines are no more and no less than one would expect from Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace. And in this the two dance stars of Midnight Tango certainly do not disappoint. Can the same be said for the musical of that name? Because that is what this theatricalised and dramatised dance production claims to be. It is – as the producer, former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips, points out – “The first-ever tango musical.”

So does it work? Amazingly, and against all the odds – yes! Sizzling and sexy, this is Argentine tango at its best, technically faultless and much, much more. The most critical of tango aficionados would have to agree and, judging by the wild enthusiasm of the audience, they certainly do.

Set in a late-night bar in downtown Buenos Aires, the story is slight, as might be expected with the knowledge that it was created purely as a vehicle for the dancing. Not inspirational, but expert choreography by Simone and Cacace under the skilled guidance of Phillips make that immaterial. Nevertheless, it does keep within tango tradition – boy meets girl, girl gets attracted to another man, eventually they get back together again all aided and abetted by friends and an avuncular bar owner and his wife (acted and danced with humour by RADA-trained Anthony Renshaw and the delightful Tricia Deighton).

What matters is the dancing per se, and this even the sternest of critics must find impossible to fault. The lightening leg flicks of the male dancers in the opening sequence are only a portent of more to come, not only from the principals but from the whole ensemble. The energy and athleticism shown by this 13-strong team of dancers is incredible, but would in itself be insufficient without the simpatico element of the dancing from each one of these dancers, all highly skilled professionals in their own right.

The explosive tango routines danced by Simone and Cacace are riveting. Intoxicating, romantic, brooding sexuality erupts onto the stage with their entry. Perfectly in sync with one another, these two dancers have the art of tango dancing honed to perfection. Not only do they showcase the skills that made them so popular with Strictly audiences, showing also a deep understanding of the fine nuances of tango, but have the confidence and expertise to add and incorporate routines and movements from other styles.

Much of this part of the programme is danced to the music known as Tango Nuevo – the jazz-tango fusion music made world-famous by Argentinean tango musician Astor Piazzolla. This includes new arrangements of classic tunes, some of which were not written as tango at all, others composed during the golden age of tango after World War I, and familiar pieces such as Jealousy and Temptation.

The seven musicians of the tango band Tango Siempre are on stage throughout, providing melodic musical rhythms both sensuous and lump-in-the-throat. Singer Miguel Angel, who made his West End debut in The Buddy Holly Story, provides a brief respite for the dancers, and in doing so remains in keeping with the format of early tango.

Runs until Saturday 29 June 2013.

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