Tuesday 10th April 2018 at the Grand Theatre and Opera House Leeds.
Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone light up the stage in Tango Moderno like two gorgeously inextinguishable flames on a mission to enlighten the masses in the beauty of ‘the dance of love’. Joined by a fantastic cast of dancers, the pair celebrate the diverse capabilities of this classic dance in a production which seeks above all else to make this ‘a Tango for today’. Simone and Cacace’s mastery of the dance in its traditional form is displayed in all its glory, but the production goes much further to create a piece that both celebrates and satirises modern culture through charmingly playful sequences from director and choreographer Karen Bruce. It’s a fast-paced, endlessly impressive and joyful display which includes a pleasantly surprising amount of well-planted comedy while never short changing lovers of the romantic intensity of the Tango.Unapologetically offering a very loose and whimsical narrative, the production sees a brief introduction to each sequence via prose and poetry (the work of Richard Marsh, delivered with drama by Tom Parsons) which seek to provide brief commentary on key moments in our lives as we grow and learn. An additional thread throughout is the placement of Simone and Cacace as something resembling a pair of idealistic Cupids; they watch individuals miss every opportunity to feel the pull of attraction with bemused expressions before intervening with physical manipulations or blowing some sort of Tango-fairy-dust over them to ignite their feet and their passions.There’s not a single flawed toe tap or scuppered flourish to be seen in this precisely perfected production which is full of energy every step of the way. It’s not a small team either, with James Bennett, Simon Campbell, Michael Carroll, Hannah Millichamp, Hannah Varnam, Bryony Whitefield, Tom Woollaston all creating scenes of stunning synchronised numbers while also adapting to the contemporary flair of this production. Within the company there are of course stand out performances and here Mary Lynn Tiep and George Hodson give a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek performance of the famous lust to be found in a Tango, raising eyebrows and inviting laughter with their raunchy yet gently mocking routine. Cat Lane also stands out in her performance as an over-excited date who stuns her wooer before showcasing her physical prowess.The production achieves excellence not just in the physical talents of the cast but also in the form of a superb band playing the musical arrangements and orchestrations of Chris Egan and Trystan Francis as well as singers Rebecca Lisewski and Tom Parsons. Lisewski’s vocals could launch a rocket and she demands that we lift our eyes to the platform where she stands even as the dance scenes below call our eyes to them – that’s real star power. She also takes her moment in the spotlight and runs with it, performing Three Handed Woman with great comic flair as well as a faultless vocal performance. Parsons manages to impress with the most mellow sounds and delivers each performance with emotions brimming at the forefront of each note – the pair deliver some exquisite harmonies in their duets. Violinist Oliver Lewis is also deserving of recognition for flooring us all with a magnificently exuberant solo.Set designer Morgan Large places the cast as urbanites and Vicky Gill’s costume designs combine visions of classic ballroom garments with very modern pieces for scenes featuring phone-obsessed youngsters in sportswear clumsily missing opportunities to fall in love. In keeping with the modernised motif, the music of Tango Moderno offers a selection of wildly popular tracks such as Human, Lay Me Down, Shape of You and The Lazy Song alongside classics like A House is Not a Home, Haven’t Met You Yet, Sinnerman and When A Man Loves A Woman. It also uses music to insert some excellent comedy, with Grace Lane’s Bla Bla Bla Cha Cha Cha being one particularly brilliant display of how technology has impacted on our relationships and romantic lives. The efforts to please all sectors of the audience at a show like this certainly pay off and the seamless shifts between classic and contemporary mean that the performance glides along so swiftly that it’s over well before we’re collectively ready to let it go.
Tango Moderno is well and truly all about the dance and announces itself as an unstoppable force of nature; impressing on so many levels, this an evening very well spent. Catch it if you can!
The production is presented by Adam Spiegel and plays at the Grand Theatre and Opera House Leeds until Saturday 14th April 2018 – it’s the last stop of the tour so be quick booking tickets here.