Benet Catty Productions

Midnight Tango - London (WE) 2012

Feb 1, 2012

Whatsonstage ***

There has been a creditable tradition of dance triumphing in West End houses for commercial runs. Cats put dance as the chief story-telling mechanism of a British musical. More recently, Kate Prince’s sensational Into the Hoods and more recently Some Like It Hip-Hop have brought street dance to the service of classic stories.

In the decades in-between, Tap Dogs, Hot Shoe Shuffle and Fosse have enjoyed successful runs. Midnight Tango, sadly, falls far short of its predecessors. Nobody doubts that Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone can dance brilliantly and deserve all of their numerous accolades. Everyone likes a bit of Argentine passion. But with no narrative to give it purpose or visual variation to give it surprise, the relentless repetition of the same signature steps, however brilliantly executed, suffers diminishing returns.

The disappointment is not for lack of talent in the enterprise. Morgan Large delivers another of his striking sets; Gareth Owen resists the urge to maximise the volumes and gives the show a restrained but zealous sound design. Arlene Phillips (“a showbiz legend” says her programme biography) is the producer. Karen Bruce, a wonderful choreographer in her own right, is the director.

But Midnight Tango lacks any kind of dramatic motor to sustain its two-hour traffic, substituting cliches (even inducing hisses for perhaps the least frightening fight - danced or otherwise - ever seen on a stage) and padding everything else with a hurricane of flicking heels and extended back legs, accompanied by easy-listening South American music and more glissandos than have been heard in one show since the death of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Most upsetting of all, the great Teddy Kempner - a performer who’s played lead parts in musicals for decades - finds himself in the “silly old goat” comedy part, which is neither funny nor even really a part. Let’s hope that that someone gives him a proper West End role sharpish.

If tango is your life and soul, this is certainly the place to see it performed with expertise and energy, but don’t expect to see anything you haven’t seen lots before. If tango is something you can take or leave, you may feel £56 is a bit much for a show which may generate a lot of heat but left me cold.

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