Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review: Brendan Cole - Licence to Thrill

Up close, Brendan Cole has a really nice arse.

I know this because, apparently, in Croydon row C of a theatre is the front row and so it was that I found myself getting an excellent view of Mr Cole and all of his appealing features when I saw his tour Licence to Thrill last week.

Now, I’m going to try really hard to not make this post a straight up Brendan’s tour vs Anton’s tour post but – having seen all six of Anton’s tours and being a devoted Antonette – there’s a certain inevitability that that’s what it will become.

So let’s get one thing out of the way first: I preferred and will always prefer Anton’s 100% ballroom tours. Brendan’s tours incorporate Latin and ballroom dances, with an emphasis on the former, and I just don’t like the Latin as much. It doesn’t matter how well they’re danced or who is dancing them, they just don’t do it for me.

That said, if you do want to see a show that incorporates the full range of the dances you see on Strictly then you could certainly do far worse than checking out LTT. It’s a really fun show with a great party atmosphere and some stand out numbers. You have to wait until Act 2 for all of them, but the cape dance (basically a man only paso doble; much like most of the sports in the winter Olympics, I don’t understand the point but man was it fun to watch), the Dirty Dancing tribute number complete with iconic lift and the mind bendingly fast jive to Footloose that closes the show are all fantastic.

Brendan is a great dancer too and you certainly get more of a sense of his personality – and that he’s enjoying himself – in his dances than you do in Anton’s. My dislike of the genre aside, I love watching his fast Latin on Strictly and it’s even better up close and personal. The ballroom numbers were lovely too, especially the simple and romantic waltz.

His supporting cast, including fellow Strictly pro Aliona Vilani (who I was amazingly un-annoyed by) and Brendan’s older brother Scott amongst others – are generally pretty good too. Music is provided by two singers (female good, male a slightly cringey amalgamation of every Heart FM DJ ever who carries a tune quite nicely) and a decent band, under the direction of a delightfully deadpan musical director/pianist/MC.  

For all the fun of the show, it’s definitely not as polished as Anton’s (sorry, I am trying). There were a number of quite noticeable mistakes in the dancing, my favourite being Scott Cole coming very close to dropping his partner at one point, and the music. It’s always awkward when a trumpeter splits a note so badly during a solo that the sharp intake of breath from the audience is audible. There are also, for my money, a couple of pretty ropey routines. The ‘girls vs boys’ section springs to mind, especially the ‘girls’ portion which consisted of a weird burlesque routine, to the strains of a slowed down version of The Locomotion, with a dollop of lipstick lesbianism thrown in for good measure. I didn’t get it and I never want to see it again. I did want to see more of Brendan though – it felt like there was a lot of reliance on the backing dancers to pad out the show and mask costume changes and if I was a diehard Brendan fan I would probably have been a bit pissed off.

The night I saw the show, though, all of my nitpicking was put to one side as we got a massive treat. Sophie Ellis Bextor was in the audience and turned up in the second act Q&A to dance her amazing Charleston with Brendan. If you thought this was a great routine on TV, it was magical in the flesh. I genuinely feel incredibly lucky to have seen it, and it was lovely to see all of the other dancers watching from the wings with proud big brother Scott recording it on his ipad. It may have only been a few minutes in a two hour show, but it was worth the price of the ticket all on its own.

Licence to Thrill is touring the UK throughout February and March and is certainly worth a look. Try and get front row seats if you appreciate a nice arse. 

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