Touring – reviewed at New Wimbledon Theatre, London
Strictly favourite Brendan Cole returns for his 10th annual tour, bringing All Night Long back to the stage after a successful run in 2017.
It is a truly dynamic show, combining many varied dances with fantastic live musicianship and singing, as well as some chat from the man himself in between most numbers.
Opening with a samba to the title song, written and originally performed by Lionel Richie, the show is quickly off to an energetic and entertaining start; samba rolls abound and it’s clear the cast has got the party spirit.
Cole then gets the opportunity to properly introduce the show, letting us know that “tonight is about celebrating talent”. And he is true to his word. While is undoubtedly the star of the show, what makes All Night Long so special is that all the cast members get their moment in the spotlight – whether it’s Crystal Main taking the lead in ‘Flashdance… What a Feeling’ or Jenna Lee-James belting out ‘Defying Gravity’ to rapturous applause.
Cole also gets the chance to show what an all-round entertainer he is, teaming up with MD Barry Robinson and singer Iain Mackenzie to have a go at a Rat Pack classic, and demonstrates how his guitar skills are coming on as he joins the band on acoustic guitar.
His cheeky charm really comes to the fore as he gets talking about Strictly, teasing gossip and giving spot-on impressions of the judges’ entrances – even touching on press speculation about his opinion of new head judge Shirley Ballas (rather diplomatically, I have to say) and the presumed relationship between Mollie and AJ.
There are plenty of Latin beats to get the audience clapping their hands, with a flapper-filled Charleston, a spicy salsa to Miami Sound Machine’s Conga and an all-kicking, all-flicking jive to Tell Her About It. Jenna Lee-James impresses again with her rendition of Skyfall as Brendan and Faye take centre stage with a passionate Argentine Tango. My favourite Latin moment is probably the Paso Doble that opens the second act; fiery in more ways than one, with Spanish attitude mixing with real flames to produce something truly combustible.
What I had been most looking forward to, however, were the ballroom numbers. That good old-fashioned glamour & glitz is what first really got me interested in Strictly Come Dancing, so it’s always a thrill to see them performed live by such talented professionals. Brendan is perhaps the best ballroom choreographer on Strictly, and he proves it once more with this show; the storytelling is immaculate, and in none more so than his waltz to Michael Bublé’s version of At This Moment. Rather than the traditional romantic coupling, it tells the story of an affair breaking up a relationship. The waltz is Brendan’s favourite style of dance, and this one in particular he suggests is his favourite in the show – I think many of the audience will be in agreement when they see it.
Of course an American Smooth top hat & tails moment is always a crowd-pleaser, and an especially touching moment comes later in the form of a foxtrot as a tribute to the late Sir Bruce Forsyth, with Brendan first telling us an anecdote about the first time they met at the pilot for Strictly.
It has taken me years to finally get round to catching one of Brendan’s tours, but it really was worth the wait. Brendan and his team have created a sensational show that is guaranteed to have everyone on their feet by the end – but it really could go on “all night long”!
My verdict? A dazzling night of dance and music, with sensational performances all round – the ultimate Strictly solo tour.