Theatre Review: The Last Tango, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: The Last Tango

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Dance
Date: April 4 2016
Location: Liverpool Empire Theatre

The Last Tango is a story of one dancing couple’s evolution, from when they initially met as dance partners to their budding relationship to life as a married couple and as parents of two children. If you are a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, then you will recognise Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone, who have been in the world of professional dance for many years but achieved national fame on the BBC show for many years.

And this provides a showcase for Flavia and Vincent to tell their own story through the use of their most recognisable dance routines, their favourite songs to dance along to, and to in essence enlighten the audience on how there is a lot more to a dance show than just the moves and the music.

Indeed, this tells a story almost entirely through dance and song, with occasional interludes from an older version of the male dancer (Teddy Kempner) who finds various items in his attic and wardrobe which remind him of his relationship. There are different elements utilised to explain this, from light comedy to situations linking to the context of the era (e.g. when he is called up to battle in a war) to genuine emotion. Although we the audience are not told what has happened, it’s clear in the final scenes that the long-standing bond of true love between the couple has been broken under tragic circumstances.

There are many back-up dancers in this production, but Flavia and Vincent are unquestionably the stars of the show. It’s hard to pick out one specific dance routine, as their performances provide less flash but more substance and meaning, and because almost every single dance is visually a work of art. That being said, one cannot forget the final, extravagant dance routine which earned Flavia and Vincent a well-deserved from the Liverpool Empire audience.

The setting is a basic yet realistic-looking house (or at least the upper rooms of the home), whilst props and costumes provide the additional support when bringing into a specific situation from their lives. The singers are very good; like with the dances, it’s hard to pick one particular stand-out moment, but when they take you back in time with such songs as Beyond The Sea and Magic Moments, and they are performed with a style that is unique yet true to the original artists, you can definitely recognise the talent these singers have and their range of vocal skills that are on display.

The acting skills of Teddy only occasionally come into play, as his scenes are largely interludes between the dance routines, but he does a good job of having the audience warm to him, making them laugh with subtle references, and also having them understand his pain in the closing moments. It is at the end, ironically with no words spoken, that his acting skills really come to the forefront. With a larger role, Teddy could have been the most memorable performer on the night.

A slight downside for me concerned the running time, as it began a little late and lasted less than two hours (with an interval included). I suppose for a show like this that it is important for the story not to last too long, especially since the verbal scenes are limited outside of the songs themselves, but I felt that it could have lasted a little bit longer, as the ending almost felt slightly abrupt. A couple more routines would have fleshed out the show more, and it would only have been of benefit to the production as opposed to stretching out the plot.

As Flavia noted in a recent interview that I conducted with her (which you can read here), you don’t have to be a dance enthusiast to enjoy this show. That being said, if you a true dance aficionado and/or if you are a fan of Flavia and Vincent from their days on Strictly, then you are far more likely to come to this show knowing that you will have a really good time, and that you will come away with an even greater appreciation for the art of dance and for the talents of Flavia and Vincent. The older generation will likely appreciate the more classic numbers that are used for the production as well. Whether you enjoy theatre, dance, vintage music or you just want a good night of entertainment, The Last Tango is a very enjoyable show and one that I would recommend that you go and see.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good