Tuesday, 7 October 2014

200th Interview: Flavia Cacace & Vincent Simone

Following the success of Midnight Tango, Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone are preparing to open their new show Dance ’Til Dawn which transfers to the West End’s Aldwych Theatre following a successful UK Tour. 

Best known for starring in Strictly Come Dancing (BBC), Vincent and Flavia have been dancing together for twenty years. The former World Champions stole the hearts of the British public with their breathtaking Argentine Tango on the popular television programme. 

Together they launched Midnight Tango in 2010 which went on to be seen by over half a million people during its tours and two West End runs (Aldwych and Phoenix). Dance ‘Til Dawn is directed by Olivier Award winning choreographer and director Karen Bruce who also directed Midnight Tango.

I recently spoke to Vincent and Flavia about why Dance ‘Til Dawn will surprise people, how they developed the show from page to stage and why they’re so excited to be back in the West End…

I believe Dance 'Til Dawn is very different to Midnight Tango. What were your initial visions for the show?

Flavia Cacace: We wanted it to be very different and didn’t really want it to be compared to Midnight Tango because that was so special in itself. We wanted to create something completely different and wanted to dance Ballroom and Latin as well as Argentine Tango which in Midnight Tango we didn’t really do. So together with our director Karen (Bruce) and producer Adam (Spiegel) we came up with the idea of branching out a little bit and heading a little more towards musical theatreland. 

How did you go about doing that?

FC: We wanted to increase the storytelling, so got a scriptwriter on board and then the main thing – which is what Adam pushed for – is that it’s a comedy. Midnight Tango did have comedy in there but it was quite serious because Tango is a serious dance. Dance ‘Til Dawn is a very funny show, it’s really entertaining. People leave with a big smile on their face. It’s kind of like musical theatre meets Ballroom and Latin.

Wow – that’s an interesting mix!

FC: We’ve got singing, we’ve got acting…

And how does the story come together?

FC: It’s set in 1940s Hollywood and it’s a crime story set in a film studio. We’ve got a great set that takes you to different places – the set actually moves and we’ve got lots of big props. I’m a film star and Vincent is a young wannabe actor. There’s a murder… he gets charged and then you have to come and see the rest! There are some speaking parts and then the rest is all told through dance. The singing is amazing!

You’ve got some big numbers in there, including the likes of ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Moon River’ and ‘Stand By Me’!

FC: We have, there are big numbers and big voices! Obviously the dancing is not too bad [laughs], it’s an interesting fusion. 

I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this before in the West End!

FC: Not really, not that sort of mix.

Vincent Simone: That’s the beauty about it, Midnight Tango was just Tango and sometimes we had comments from the press saying ‘When Vincent and Flavia are not on stage the level goes down a little bit’. This time everybody is so amazing and talented! When the singers came to audition they opened their mouth and we had tears coming down.

FC: It’s not just me and Vincent doing our dancing, we are an element of it. We have got fantastic people with us and the level of the entire show is brilliant. 

You’ve been touring for a while, but how long have you been working on the show?

FC: Well it’s quite mad because I would say during the last month of Midnight Tango we were on stage knowing that was coming to an end and luckily we had the new show in our minds. We had already had meetings with our producer about what it was going to be.

VS: There were times when we were actually performing on stage with Midnight Tango when our brains were already working and trying to choreograph other stuff for this. 

FC: By the end of it Midnight Tango was so second nature for us that our minds could wonder which is very dangerous. After Midnight Tango we had a bit of a break and then we started on Dance ‘Til Dawn. It’s a lengthy process; we only had a very rough script. 

Did you go through workshops?

FC: Well we had a script that was written that we scribbled on and made changes to and then we had to go through the lengthy process of choosing the music. We obviously had the script so knew the sections of storytelling. We then thought about what dances would help tell that part of the story.

VS: We had a huge repertoire of songs we wanted to use. We almost changed the story in relation to the songs.

FC: We were desperately trying to find a way to get them all in there and find a place for them to work [both laugh]. It’s really time consuming but our arranger, Chris Egan, is amazing. As much as we’ve wanted to make it modern and appealing, we’ve picked some modern tracks and he’s put them all under the same umbrella. We’ve got something like ‘Moon River’ and then a Bruno Mars song, but in the context of the show it works. Our live orchestra are incredible! It’s really exciting!

So many shows come straight to the West End before they are ready, but you’ve toured before transferring to London. How much did you work on the show whilst touring? How much has it changed?

FC: Oh my god, lots! To be honest when we opened in Eastbourne [laughs]… as much as you can prepare in the studio… until you get to a theatre you just have no idea what it will be like.

VS: You don’t know about the reaction from the audience.

FC: It’s the storytelling, the choreography; we were changing things at the last minute because things don’t look the same as they did in the studio. Then there’s costume mayhem because we hadn’t had time to try costumes and go through quick changes – there are a lot of quick changes. It was manic, but when you put it in front of the audience you can guage their reaction – what they laugh at, what they don’t. They loved it, but we spent maybe the next three weeks tweaking things with our director watching it constantly. Throughout the whole of the tour, even though people were saying “It’s amazing, we love it and are coming back”, we were always thinking about how we could make it better. We’re making big changes for the West End to make it even better.

Are you excited about coming back into the West End?

VS: We love the Aldwych! 

FC: It’s a very special theatre to us because it’s where we performed the first time we were ever in the West End with Midnight Tango. Then we did the Phoenix which was lovely, but to come back here is like going back to the beginning with this show. 

And after touring it must be nice knowing you’re going to be in the same place eight times a week!

FC: Absolutely, especially over Christmas and New Year. It’s perfect!

How have audiences been responding to the show so far?

FC: Well I think when people turn up they don’t have a clue what we’re going to do [laughs].

VS: I keep asking people at stage door all the time, “Did you know what the story was going to be like?” and they don’t! They just buy the tickets and are surprised!

FC: A lot of people have come to see Midnight Tango and don’t even read about what the show is. They just know that we’re in it and they liked Midnight Tango so thought they would give Dance 'Til Dawn a go. When they see the show and realise that there’s singing, dancing, acting, talking and storytelling as well as us they seem to leave saying, “Oh my god, that was more than we expected”. The most important thing is that they find it funny; it’s a real feel good show.

VS: It just works!

Do you think it’s a good show for people who aren’t necessarily big dance fans?

FC: Absolutely! We’ve had a lot of men who maybe aren’t so into dance shows really like it. There have also been people who have never been to the theatre before or never seen a dance show and they’ve said, “I would definitely go and watch something like that again”. 

VS: There have been couples coming together and the guys said “It’s just for the ladies” but then they enjoyed it more than the women did.

There’s quite a big creative team behind the show, how does that work? There must sometimes be difference of opinion?

FC: We’ve worked with most of them before so it’s an easy flow, they know what we like. There’s obviously always going to be different opinions with our director and so on, but pretty much we’re all on the same line – that’s why we’ve worked with Karen for four years! We’ll always try things out, we’ll do what Karen suggests and then try what we think. At the end of the day we all just want it to be the best it can be so it doesn’t matter who comes up with what. It gets heated when you open a show – like when we opened in Eastbourne. Only because time is so limited and you have the director trying to get the show on and the lighting people are not quite sure what they’re doing and the timing isn’t quite right. As soon as it’s up and running it’s much smoother!

We have quite a few dance shows at the moment – Michael Flatley is back and Arlene Philips recently opened a new show. Do you think it’s important that we continue to see more dance shows in London? The West End is usually dominated by plays and musicals…

FC: I think now is the time when people appreciate dancing, it’s taken ten or eleven years for it to be appreciated in this way. There are so many different dance styles out there, it’s not like everybody is churning out the same thing. Even if you went to see all the dance shows you would be seeing something very different each time. 

VS: I went to watch Michael Flatley’s show and it’s completely different. I’m not a fan of Irish dancing but – you know – the show says its ‘sold out’. For me it was very amateurish. I was saying to Flavia if we were going to be there we would shout at everybody because it looked like they were taking it so easy until obviously Michael came along. That is something else. People come and see our show because they want to see us and we are in the show a lot… probably too much.

FC: At the moment we’re very much in the whole thing, it’s not like we just come on and make an appearance. 

VS: And we do all eight shows a week. Watching Lord of the Dance from the beginning I was waiting for Michael to turn up, that was the whole point. I was watching these youngsters trying to do their thing.

FC: Well I guess it’s good that he keeps you waiting until the end…

VS: …I was almost leaving and then saw ‘oh there he is’! [both laugh] But we are both a fan of him, he is brilliant. 

You must have both noticed a huge difference over the past ten years? Strictly has completely changed people’s opinion of dance in the UK…

FC: It really has completely changed. You can see how many dance shows there are on TV which weren’t there before! We’re able to do this now, but we wouldn’t have been able to do theatre shows before. It’s not something we studied or set out to do with our careers. It’s purely thanks to people who enjoy seeing what we do. It’s great, there has definitely been a boom and I just hope it keeps going.

Finally, you’ve already mentioned about speaking with people at the stage door which is one of the joys of doing a stage show – you have the opportunity to immediately meet people and feel the response from the audience. You must love that?

VS: Oh we love that! That’s the highlight!

FC: It’s brilliant! The only reason we do what we do is because people come to see us. If they didn’t we wouldn’t be able to carry on. We are eternally grateful for people coming to see Midnight Tango for three years and now Dance ‘Til Dawn. 

VS: It’s so good to meet them in person and for them to be able to meet us.

FC: We’re always uncertain about what we’ve done. People say “Oh I bet you’re tired of hearing…” but we never do because you’re constantly picking on yourself and think certain things weren’t good enough, but when you meet someone after and they say, “That was amazing I loved it” it makes you realise it was actually alright! If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here.

VS: There are women who are 90 years old who say, “That was the best day of my life!” I mean after 90 years that was the best day of their life! It’s brilliant!

FC: We do love the extreme comments!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Dance ’Til Dawn begins performances at the Aldwych Theatre on Thursday 23rd October 2014 for a limited 10 week run. Please visit www.dancetildawnonstage.com for further information and tickets.

Thank you for reading West End Frame's 200th interview! 

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