Strictly Come Dancing stars Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace bring their new show to the Liverpool Empire from 31 March to 2 April 2014
I met with Flavia last week to talk about the upcoming show, Strictly Come Dancing, the Argentine tango and what she thinks of Liverpool.
Q – This show is all about old Hollywood glamour. What is it about that era that appeals to you?
Flavia – After three years of our last show, Midnight Tango, we wanted to do something very different and something that allowed us to do some of our other dances other than the Argentine tango. So we thought 1940s Hollywood we can go Fred and Ginger. So in this show we go from Charleston, tango, foxtrot, quickstep. We’ve got some Argentine tango, so there’s pretty much everything in there. The other cast members are West End dancers, so we’ve got their style of dancing as well and we’ve managed to fuse the two worlds together.
Q – And the Argentine tango fits in there?
Flavia – Yes, it fits in and we don’t apologise for it! It all makes sense within the story. It was a risk to make it work and seem logical, but so far the feedback from the audiences has been great.
Q – I’m sure no-one’s complaining! So, in terms of having a live band, does this make it special for you?
Flavia – It’s incredible. We’ve got an amazing musical director (Karen Bruce) and we’ve picked songs we’ve always wanted to use. We’ve picked some and Karen picked some and we’ve fused them together to make the different parts of the story so we’ve got highs and lows. We’ve got some really old songs and we’ve also gone really modern, so there’s something for everyone. You sit and listen to [a song] and you’ll go “Oh, hang on…I know that!”
Q – So it’s a bit Baz Luhrmann – modern stuff done with an old feel?
Flavia – It is. And it’s all big band, so we’ve taken the song and made it our own.
Q – So what about your dancers? How many of them are there?
Flavia – There’s 18 plus us and we’ve got two actors who help to tell the story. They’re really brilliant and funny – there’s a detective and a Jessica Rabbit type character. We’ve also got two singers who are absolutely incredible and all the other cast members can sing and dance. And then you’ve got Vincent and I playing our characters and doing our thing. There’s a great set and we take you to the Hollywood hills, we go to a pool party, a club….so the set changes and there’s lots to look at. And of course, the costumes help tell the story as well.
Q – So do you spend a lot of time rushing through costume changes?
Flavia – There’s lots of costume changes and everyone’s loving the costumes. They’re 1940s style, so they’re very glamorous. There’s some very quick changes. When we first started it was very manic backstage with things being literally thrown around, but we’ve settled down now and we know where we’re going. So we’re nice and calm on stage, but backstage it’s crazy busy!
Q – So just how glamorous do the outfits get? Are we talking Rita Hayworth in Gilda?
Flavia – Some, yes! We go to a club scene and there’s a Charleston and there’s very glamorous dresses. It’s a real mix, so if we’re in a normal location, we’re in more normal – but still very stylised costumes – and then we do have moments when we go very glamorous.
Q – So can I ask you about Strictly. Who has been the partner who has given you the most satisfaction in terms of how they’ve moved on?
Flavia – That has to be Russell Grant. He’s a very good friend of mine now and we speak at least weekly. To begin with everyone was like, “Oh, he’s not going to do very well” and in actual fact he was brilliant! He’s a real inspiration, not just doing Strictly, but where he’d come from before that . His weight loss before was incredible. And then to take on a challenge like Strictly and so it so well with so much enthusiasm was just delightful. It was so easy and pleasurable to work with him.
Q – He so obviously loved it, didn’t he?
Flavia – He loves it! He still does now. If he could dance very day he would. And that comes across when you’re with him, so it was never hard work. He’s got that natural flair, so he sells every dance he does.
Q – I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but if you could pick anyone in the world to be your partner, who would you choose to partner and teach how to dance?
Flavia (laughing) – It’s really hard! People might think I’d choose someone like Brad Pitt, but you don’t know character-wise whether they like dancing or whether they’re going to be musical. To me the most important thing is the enthusiasm from someone when you’re teaching them and until you meet someone you don’t know if they have that or not. So you could pick someone on looks or whatever, but the most important thing when you’re teaching is that they are really open to learning and they’re enthusiastic and hard-working. That’s where you get the rewards from, really.
Q – Do you think we’ll see you back on Strictly?
Flavia – Possibly. We didn’t do it last year ‘cos we had this big show to put together and Strictly is a 24-hour-a-day commitment and personally I only ever do it if I know I’m committed 110%, and with Dance Til Dawn around the corner we couldn’t commit to both projects. I did Strictly for seven..eight years, which is a long time and I think having won it and having won last year’s Christmas Special (with Rufus Hound), which was amazing, you start to think about new things and new challenges. So I wouldn’t say it would be like taking a step back, but I’m so satisfied with my experience on the show. I’ve lived every possible experience on there, but who knows? We haven’t made any final decisions yet.
Q – So you’re here in Liverpool, have you had much chance to see Liverpool and experience it?
Flavia – I love it up here and the audiences are always great. I love the Empire Theatre, it’s a beautiful theatre and it’s so inspirational. I love Liverpool and my favourite restaurant, San Carlo, is here so I’ll be having my yearly trip there. I’ve got friends in Liverpool, too and it’s really nice cos they’ll be in the audience, too.
Q – I have to ask you about your signature dance, the Argentine tango. When it comes to the music,what would you prefer to dance to – the more traditional, dirty, basic Argentine music or the more modern interpretations?
Flavia – I personally prefer the more traditional. I think you can’t beat the old Astor Piazzolla music. Tango is my favourite music to listen to. I don’t think it’s for everybody. I think some people would find it too dramatic, but it’s very emotional and I love it. I like the old stuff; I do like the more modern stuff as well, but after a while I want to go back to the traditional. That’s the foundation of it. That music really tells a story so it’s easy to choreograph to cos it almost tells you what to do . Traditional tango music has so many highs and lows; it fluctuates – there’s quiet moments and then it goes really fast, so it’s like a script and it’s very emotionally involving.
Dance Til Dawn is on at the Liverpool Empire this week with tickets available from £10 from the Empire’s website
The all-singing, all-dancing re-working of Romeo & Juliet is set against a 1960s New York underbelly where rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks run the streets and star crossed lovers Tony and Maria find love in the midst of a whole lot of hate.
Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s glorious music, under conductor, Ben Van Tienan, had the hairs on my back standing on end. The magnificent, soaring delivery of America, the Tonight quintet and the raucous music at the dance at the gym gave me shivers of delight.
Jerome Robbins’s original choreography was delivered with more energy than you could rattle a maraca at by a group of dancers headed by the superb Djanelnga Scott (Anita), Javier Cid, (Bernardo) and Jack Wilcox (Biff). The beautiful, balletic dream sequence accompanying Somewhere makes you wish these rival gangs could get along because you like them all so damn much!
But then we wouldn’t have the tragic story we all know and love, would we? At the hear of the story Katie Hill (who we last saw playing Christine in Phantom of the Opera at the Empire) and Dom Hudson (on understudy duty for Louis Maskell) gave us a very sweet Maria and Tony, whose love burns brightly, but is over too quick in the face of the hatred all around them.
If Hudson struggled a tiny bit with the very highest of notes, we can easily forgive him on account of how bloody lovable he is! Hill’s voice, as anyone who’s seen her knows, is pure and wonderful and you genuinely root for these two in the face of their ultimate doom.
This West Side Story is an absolute joy. Even with all the “Daddy-o”s and the 60s street lingo, the music and choreography still feel fresh as newly-popped daisies. It’s sure to be a sell out, so grab your tickets while you can and enjoy it in all it’s glory.
West Side Story runs at the Liverpool Empire from now until Saturday 28 September at the Liverpool Empire.
First of all let me just say that Phantom of the Opera is big. I mean really, really BIG.
As well as being the longest running musical in Broadway history with over 10,000 performances, it’s also the second longest running West End musical. With music by Andrew “The Lord” Lloyd-Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart (additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, no less) it has won a whole raft of awards and accolades from the public, if not always the critics.
Phantom has been around since 1986 and I’m a huge lover of musicals, but this was my first time seeing it. I’ve popped my Phantom cherry, if you like.
So is it worth the humongous run? The praise lavished on it? Well to me it certainly was. From the moment the enormous chandelier from the Opéra Populaire dropped dramatically over the audience and the magnificent orchestra (it sounded as though there were 90 of them!) started to play, I had tingles.
Telling the story of the mysterious Phantom and his love for the beautiful Christine Daaé, a singer at the Opéra Populaire, the show dazzles at every turn. From the stirring music and the sumptuous sets, which beautifully echo the Empire’s setting, to the lavish costumes and brilliant performances from the cast, Phantom of the Opera ticks all the “great musical” boxes.
I can’t heap enough praise on Katie Hall (a former I’d Do Anything contestant) for her wonderful Christine, whom she played so wonderfully – at times torn and terrified, yet filled with compassion. And last, but certainly not least, we were treated to an incredible Phantom by John Owen-Jones when Earl Carpenter and his understudy, Richard Woodford were sadly taken poorly. But what a treat for the audience to see the man who’s played the role longer than any other actor in the show’s history don the mask.
Hall and Owen-Jones have singing voices to die for; they were great leads and their voices went together perfectly. I’m sure Earl Carpenter can’t wait to get back to work to show off his acting chops in the role.
If you like your musicals with a big old score – stirring strings and crashing cymbals, big booming numbers and slow soft ones – this is for you. It’s a testament to the show’s popularity that I was surrounded by grown men and women unashamedly and unselfconsciously belting out the songs with great gusto. This is a show that’s big, bold and lavish. It’s also hugely entertaining. Get down there while you can.
Phantom of the Opera is on at the Liverpool Empire from now until 9th March. Check out the Empire’s website for tickets.