Venue: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Production Run: Tue 19 - Sat 24 Sep 2017

Performance Reviewed: Tue 19 Sep (Press Night)

Going into Tango Moderno, one would be excused for having a rough idea of what to expect.

Namely a sharply choreographed, beautifully executed demonstration of narrative through dance, a creed shared by the duo’s triad of offerings thus far. Sure, each of Midnight Tango, Dance ’Til Dawn and The Last Tango filtered the inexhaustible talents of its headliners through a genre or slant each of their own (see, for instance, the vintage Hollywood stylings of Dance ’Til Dawn), but you roughly knew you were going to be getting an explosion of world-class dancing hung loosely around a particular narrative framework or approach.

So what happens when the Vincent and Flavia wheel unexpectedly throws out a cog? How successfully can a show that is quite literally sold on and centred around its two main stars cope when it temporarily loses one to injury?

Such was the lot for Tango Moderno as it arrived at the New Alexandra Theatre for Birmingham audiences this week. One half of the magic, Vincent Simone, is (for now) out of the show on doctors orders, and it was hard not to feel for Cacace when she took to the stage at the top of the show to inform an understandably disappointed audience.

Mercifully, although the absence of Simone can occasionally be felt, it isn’t difficult to see that Tango represents another joyous, confident and beguiling treat from the duo, producer Adam Spiegel and director-choreographer Karen Bruce.

Presenting a series of separate-yet-ultimately-connected vignettes focusing on love, life and relationships in the modern urban milieu, Tango fuses live singing with an eclectic, vibrant approach to choreography and storytelling through movement. Some of its beats are a little rote - there’s plenty of commentary on our reliance on social media, apps and mobile phones that isn’t quite as cutting as it seems to think it is - but bar these minor bugbears it is a joyous and at times captivating exploration of our modern lifestyles. 

The company as a whole are scintillating across-the-board - Tango recruits a myriad of more contemporary styles to go with its more modern focus. An immediately likeable Tom Parsons acts as an almost Lin-Manuel-meets-Once narrator of sorts, rhyming, rapping or singing his way through the show's parables. He is ably accompanied by the impressive vocals of Rebecca Lisewski (who also dances up a characterful treat), and together the pair carry the show through the likes of Bruno Mars’ ‘The Lazy Song’ and Michael Buble’s ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ to bonafide classics as ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’.

All eyes, naturally though, are on Cacace, not least of all because she once again entrances and cements herself as one of the Nation's most effortlessly captivating dance talents. Enormous credit, too, must go to Italian Pasquale La Rocca and Argentinian Leonel Di Cocco, though, recruited in to step in (literally) for Simone at extremely short notice. 

Whilst some may bemoan missing that quintessential Vincent and Flavia chemistry, and there’s no way the duo’s natural frisson from years of working together can be so quickly assimilated, nevertheless all things considered, it’s surprising how little the show suffers as a response. True, the spark and vigour isn’t quite there in some of the show’s pivotal or more vigorous sequences, but La Rocca in particular acquits himself beautifully, and the show as a whole still represents an evening of sublime dance entertainment.

Tango Moderno may be a little more scattershot and experimental in its approach than previous outings, and as a result loses some of its focus in places (a busy underground ride sequence, for instance, is a bit of a non-starter), but nobody going in should come out disappointed. It is another wholly enticing, absorbing and dazzling treat of a production that offers the occasional flourish of romance and genuine heart. The real star, once again, is the unparalleled standard of invention, character and creativity infused into every step and beat of the show, and although it may temporarily be down one of its VIP’s, the quality of everything and everyone else on show more than keep the raised bar held high.

Should you catch Simone on his return (a handful of weeks cited), you’ll likely want to add an extra star onto the rating, but don’t let his (or said star’s) absence dissuade you - if you are a fan of the duo’s previous work, or accessible, sumptuously performed dance in any guise, Moderno is a characterful, compelling delight not to be missed.

RATING - ★★★★

Tickets: 0844 871 3011​  / Official Website: click​