A NIGHT TO REMEMBER – New Wimbledon Theatre, London.
A Night to Remember is the latest show from Latin and Ballroom professional Brendan Cole, a household name thanks to his Saturday night appearances teaching celebrities to dance on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Touring the UK with one night engagements until April, A Night to Remember is a well crafted, fun evening of entertainment full of great dancing and sensational live music.
The bad boy of ballroom has grown up a lot since Strictly began 12 years ago, where he has gained a reputation for being feisty and hot headed. Brendan may have matured and mellowed, but the cheeky glint is still there, as is the confident charm that he uses to great effect when he takes to the mic to talk to the audience between numbers. As compare and host, he is relaxed and at ease engaging with the audience, talking in a tongue in cheek way about his strictly cast mates and past partners with light hearted jest.
Brendan’s dancing isn’t quite what it was a decade ago, but dancers never lose the strength and style that is ingrained after so many years of training, and he has charisma and stage presence in spades. I doubt there was a woman in the Theatre who wouldn’t like to be swept around the dance floor in his arms.
Italian beauty Giulia Dotta is the lady lucky enough to partner Brendan for much of the show and she is wonderful, particularly in a gorgeous flowing waltz to ‘Kissing You’. There are 3 other couples on stage with them; Hanna Cresswell and Kai Widdrington, Loren James and Patrick Helm, and Ksenia Zsikhotska and Ryan McShane. Taking the lead on numerous occasions, each of them get the chance to show off their talent and shine in their own right. Brendan’s name may be above the title of this show but he by no means hogs the limelight.
Praise should also be directed towards the impressive band, lead by Musical Director Barry Robinson on piano, and vocalists Iain Mackenzie and Julie Maguire. Live dance is just not the same without live music to go with it and the musicians have their chance to take centre stage for a couple of songs to give the dancers a break, but the momentum of the show is not lost.
A touching Viennese Waltz to ‘Cinderella’ is a beautiful and poignant highlight of the show, telling the story of a father and daughter relationship as she grows up and leaves home. It is Ksenia who takes the lead with Brendan in this number and she is enchanting. At the other end of the scale, the high energy finale, including a Cha Cha to ‘Beggin” and a Jive to ‘Yes’, is the perfect way to end the evening, sending you home with a smile on your face. The slight departures from ballroom and latin standard, such as a country number in the second act, are not entirely successful from a dance perspective, but they are a lot of fun nonetheless and fit so well within the overall tone of the show that it hardly matters.
The appeal of Strictly for me was always the quality of dancing from the professionals, and to watch this live is a treat. The size of the stage here puts limitations on the choreography that you would not get with a whole ballroom floor to work in, but by and large this problem is overcome with neat tricks and polished steps. A Night to Remember is not breaking any new ground, but it has reignited the spark of love I had for this genre of dance many years ago.
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By Catherine Duffy
13th February 2016 (Nationwide tour until April 2016)
New Wimbledon Theatre, London SW16 1QG