Choreography: Brendan Cole
Musical Director: Barry Robinson
Reviewer: Joseph Leigh
Licence to Thrill is a fast paced family friendly show that offers much more than a few dance numbers. From the outset it is clear that this production could very well be named An Audience with Brendan Cole and Friends, such is the engaging, open and interactive nature of this performance.
There are of course a large number of crowd pleasing dance numbers from across the Latin and Ballroom spectrum – passionate Rhumbas through evocative Argentinian Tangos to elegant English Waltzes. Cole’s choreography goes beyond the confines of a simple Latin and Ballroom show, with routines including girls vs boys dance offs, Hollywood inspired re-enactments and routines focussing on specific skills.
Licence to Thrill is also a well-balanced cabaret production, with the hugely talented band and singers being given not only the opportunity to shine, but also being included in the on stage rapport. These are not simply background or supporting artists, instead Cole makes them an integral part of the production. Particular mention must go to the two singers, Julie Maguire and Ian Mackenzie, whose phenomenal vocals are only matched by their performance and impressive stage presence.
An enjoyable performance is also given by Musical Director Barry Robinson, who not only conducts the band but also serves as Cole’s partner-in-crime during the dialogue sections. Robinson’s quips and digs at Cole help to build and maintain the pace of the production between numbers, and his on stage rapport with Cole is tangible.
Cole himself is a greatly entertaining front man as well as a superb dancer. His natural humour and charisma shine through as he serves as both MC and headline act. Cole intersperses the dance numbers with family friendly humour, insights into the world of professional Latin and Ballroom, and Strictly Come Dancing related asides and quips. Cole’s approachability shines through in the audience interaction sections, and he excels at putting the audience at ease and avoiding any awkward moments effortlessly.
An unexpected but welcome surprise was the addition of Aliona Vilani, who is ably filling in as Cole’s partner as a last minute injury replacement. Vilani’s grace and speed match Cole’s power and control perfectly, and their combined stage presence is superb while their ability as top flight dancers is apparent from the very off.
The remaining dancers, Patrick Helm, Melanie Hooper, Scott Cole, and Crystal Main, perform with flare and energy; each filling the rôles of support, solo and duet dancer with passion and skill. The entire cast mould perfectly into Cole’s convivial, interactive performance, leaving the audience with the feeling that they have been a part of the production rather than simply passive observers.
The staging itself is, for want of a better word, compact. With the full band and pyrotechnics on stage, this touring production is somewhat crowded on the Princess Theatre’s stage. While the cast continue with impressive enthusiasm this does take the edge of some of the more impressive moves, which must by necessity of space be curtailed to ensure that the routines fit on stage. The confined performance area also leaves the risk of slight stumbles, which although handled with professionalism and good humour would most likely be avoided in a larger space.
That said the setting works perfectly, with a very impressive lighting and pyrotechnic set up adding to the convivial atmosphere created by the band’s presence on stage. The dance routines themselves use every inch of space, which does serve to create a real sense of energy.
Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will love this production, and would be advised to beg, borrow or steal their way to getting hold of a ticket. Those interested in Latin or Ballroom will also find Licence to Thrill and enjoyable evening, although for those who have not watched Strictly some of the jokes and asides may fall on stony ground.
All in all, Brendan Cole – Licence to Thrill is a highly entertaining evening for the whole family. Well worth a watch, just make sure you book your tickets in advance!
Reviewed on 6th March 2014.