Dance ’til Dawn, Aldwych Theatre, review: Strictly stars deliver with goofy murder mystery

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace tread the line between musical theatre and dance

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Dance ’til Dawn is part musical, part Strictly Come Dancing vehicle, with a big dollop of panto. It's a cheerful affair that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still delivers on its dance setpieces.

This is the second stage show by Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, who came to fame as professional dancers on Strictly. Their first, Midnight Tango, was built around their skill in Argentine tango. This time, they’ve aimed for something broader and goofier, with a comic murder-mystery plot, a 1940s Hollywood setting and plenty of different dance styles, with a tango showdance to round things off.

Directed by Karen Bruce, who co-choreographs with Simone and Cacace, the show carefully balances dance and musical theatre. Teddy Kempner plays a private eye who also acts as narrator, introducing the other characters, setting up situations and breaking the fourth wall.

“Why didn’t you destroy the photographs?” he asks the vamp villainess Lana Clemenza, gleefully played by Abbie Osmon. “Because we need them in the second act,” she replies.

Ed Curtis’s book gives the shamelessly cheesy lines to Kempner and Osmon, who bat them around with charm. The busy chorus sing and dance, while the stars are here purely for dancing, making no attempt to speak. Cacace’s heroine is a Hollywood star, with Simone playing an up-and-coming actor. When her no-good fiancé is shot in a blackmailing scandal, both get caught up in the investigation.

The music is played live, with a punchy band and atmospheric singing from Osmon and Oliver Darley. Though the setting is 1940s, the songs range ahead to the 1940s – but who’s counting? It’s a bright, fluffy show, more concerned with fun than authenticity. The bustling first half is full of production numbers. Our stars meet cute on the film set, surrounded by singing and dancing technicians. The crime is followed by a slapstick cop chase, with Simone and Cacace quickstepping in and out of the action, often literally leaping over the bodies.

A frenetic first act gives way to more expansive dances in the second. Simone and Cacace yearn and slink through a prison cell number. They each dance routines with the ensemble, too. Cacace charms her way past the gangsters in a steamy number that includes a spectacular fall in which she plunges from a high staircase into their waiting arms. There are big numbers for the villainess, too. Osmon’s Lana is a delight: half movie diva, half film noir bad girl, she squeaks “I’m not happy!” as a catchphrase and brings exuberant sass to her showstoppers.

Having skipped through styles from Charleston to jive, the show ends with its stars’ calling card, a stripped-back tango from Vincent and Flavia. Their final dance, performed as if for the movie cameras, has silky lines and sharp-cut footwork, their legs entwining in flickering kicks and steps, the lifts dramatic yet smooth. It’s a strong finale for a friendly, sparkly show.

Until 3 January, then touring. Box office 0845 200 7981