Having become household names as both professional partners and Argentine Tango specialists on Strictly Come Dancing, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace follow their successful debut show, Midnight Tango, with the Hollywood-inspired Dance ‘Til Dawn. Set in the golden age of movie musicals, Dance ‘Til Dawn tells the story of young stars Tony DeLuca and Sadie Strauss, who must prove Tony’s innocence when he is wrongly accused of shooting Sadie’s cheating boyfriend. With the help of Private Investigator Tommy Dubrowski – and some very fancy footwork – they eventually uncover the real murderer and become Hollywood’s hot new stars, falling in love along the way.
Don’t let the murder plot fool you though, as there’s a strong comic element to the show. Abbie Osmon hams it up as blonde bombshell villain Lana, alternating between cool manipulation and total ditziness. When she sends her gang of cronies in pursuit of Tony and Sadie, the mobsters end up confusedly quickstepping with each other, while Tony is forced to hide by disguising himself in a gold dress. PI Dubrowski narrates the action film noir-style, openly drooling over Lana and commenting on events with irony – the photos that would free Tony and incriminate Lana as the murderer aren’t destroyed by her ‘because they’re needed in the final scene.’
Choreographically, this show is far more varied than Midnight Tango as Vincent and Flavia kick, flick and sway their way through a checklist of Strictly staples. There’s an energetic quickstep to “Pencil Full of Lead” as they fight and then flee from Lana’s mobsters, a Charleston-inspired routine with some chorus girls, a romantic waltz to “Moon River” and many more. Some of these routines slot into the narrative more naturally than others – the quirky dance in Tony’s apartment is pleasingly Fred and Ginger, but considering the pair are supposed to be in hiding and barely know each other at this point, it seems a little out of place. Several routines make ingenious use of props, with Tony and Sadie’s initial interaction marked by a hat and a handbag being passed between them as they salsa. Facing separation after Tony’s trial, a mournful rumba sees the couple handcuffed together. And in a sexy, Cellblock Tango-esque number to “Stand By Me,” the bars of Tony’s jail cell are moved aside and incorporated into the routine. (I certainly won’t hear that song in the same way again.) Although this range of Latin and ballroom styles is impressive, it’s the trademark Vincent and Flavia brand of Argentine Tango that everyone wants to see – and we are rewarded with a memorable finale. Their last tango is sensual, athletic and dramatic, alternating blisteringly fast footwork with slow, seductive phases.
Of course, none of this would be possible without an exceptionally hard-working and deceptively small supporting cast, who sing, dance and set change throughout. Nowhere is their support (quite literally) more important than at the start of the “Feeling Good” number. As the band kicks in, Sadie dives backwards off a set of stairs into the waiting arms of the male ensemble, eliciting gasps from the audience. The band and singers bring Dance ‘Til Dawn’s diverse musical score to life, giving a Hollywood twist to modern songs as well as belting out the classics.
My only complaint is that throughout the show, Tony and Sadie lack a certain amount of characterisation. This is undoubtedly because, unlike the rest of the cast, Vincent and Flavia solely communicate with their audience through dance and never once use their voices. They aren’t actors in real life, after all, but the switch between scenes with songs and dialogue to scenes without jars every time. Nonetheless, Dance ‘Til Dawn manages to be a funny, glamorous and creatively crafted show in its own right – more than just a showcase for the talents of its lead pair. Though when they are dancing centre stage, it’s hard to think about anything else.
This review was originally written for the British Theatre Guide and also appears on their site here.