Interview | Brendan Cole

Brendan Cole’s spectacular production, All Night Long, returns to the stage this week after a hugely successful and critically acclaimed run in 2017. Manchester audiences can catch the Strictly favourite at the Bridgewater Hall on Friday 19th January as part of an extensive UK and Ireland tour. Created by Brendan himself the show takes audiences on a journey through all genres of dance and music including an impressive 13 –piece band and singers as well as a sensational cast of talented championship dancers. We caught up with Brendan ahead of the show’s arrival in Manchester to hear a little more about this critically acclaimed show.

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ON: What can audiences expect from the show?

BC: I really like to think we offer audiences a bit of everything, obviously it’s a Strictly type show but it’s very much got my name on it, it’s not put on by a production company, it’s my creativity that’s put the show together. It has everything that you’d want from Strictly and more, we have a live band, 13 incredible musicians on stage, they really are phenomenal, they cover Michael Bublé, Tom Jones, that kind of calibre of musician, they really are the best, which adds an extra element to the show, it could even be a musical show on its own without the dancing, but of course audiences have come to see that dancing and that is what they’re gonna get.

ON: In terms of dance, what can audiences expect to see a mixture of Latin and Ballroom?

BC: Everything you know from Strictly we do on a stage, with a bit extra, whether it be a waltz, a cha cha, an Argentine tango, a foxtrot, a jive, a samba, we cover every element of dance and we try to cover all genres of music too, from old to new because the Strictly audience is very diverse, they really are all ages and it’s very important to me that we have a complete show, My name is on the door so I want us to be delivering something that people love then hopefully we can offer a phenomenal nights entertainment.

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ON: How does performing on stage differ to appearing on Strictly?

BC: With the magic of television they can change camera angles, there are floor effects, ceiling effects so that magic that’s created in the studio is not just about the dance but on a stage show you are there for all to see, so with that the audience truly gets to see everything, not just a zoomed in section, but every step the dancers take, the emotion, the beauty of the numbers, the magic of the dance takes centre stage. For example the waltz that we do, normally a waltz is the story of a romance, a love story where a couple meet, then fall in love and live happily ever after, the waltz that we do we use a Michael Bublé song called ‘At this moment’ and it’s the story of an affair, so it’s very different but really powerful theatre, I love it as you see the audience transform as the story of our waltz unfolds, waltz is my favourite dance anyway so to be able to perform that dance and get a really genuine reaction from the audience is brilliant. Then one number later we do a really passionate Argentine Tango which is just wow and really full on then we might next be doing something really soft, romantic and beautiful, it’s chopping and changing to make sure audiences don’t feel like they’re seeing the same thing over and over again, every number is different, the cast are phenomenal, all the elements, the music, the lighting, the staging, the costumes, the talent, everything comes together in a two hour spectacular of what people love seeing in their living rooms but they get to see it live on stage.

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ON: How do audiences differ from city to city?

BC: It’s really interesting and varies massively, if an audience is quiet it can be quite soul destroying, I’ve performed for audiences who while they appreciate what you do just sit quietly and take it in, so you can start questioning what you’re doing. I’d definitely say the further North you go the bigger the reaction, Southern audiences tend to be more reserved, which of course is absolutely fine but it can be tough to gage how much they are enjoying the show, you can think you’re dying a death on stage then after the show there can be 50,60, 80 people outside stage door telling you how phenomenal they thought the show was, it’s a really funny thing then other times you can go out on stage and before you’ve taken a step or played a note and the audience go crazy, that’s what we do this for, it’s all for the audience, we want people to walk away very, very happy having had a really great night, that’s the main thing.

ON: Are there additional pressures to performing live?

BC: When the curtain goes up you have got to be ready to perform, whether you’ve been locked out of the building, haven’t done your hair, it doesn’t matter you have to be ready. Once we had terrible storms and couldn’t travel across the Dartford bridge in London, so myself, lots of the dancers and musicians couldn’t get to the venue, my sat nav took me on a horrendous route and I finally got to the show 8 minutes before the start of the matinee, but I walked on that stage and it’s like bang, you hit the ground running, the audience doesn’t need to know the problems you might have had, it’s live and anything can happen at any time, you have to deliver and I think that’s what makes it exciting.

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ON: We’ve heard you play the guitar on stage, is this talent you’ve always had or a new skill?

BC: It’s a new thing, our musicians are world class, they really are something special, just awe inspiring, we’ve talked over the years about how I wished I’d gone to music school and learnt more about music, I’ve always wanted to be able to pick up a guitar and just be able to play, so they suggested for this new tour they put together a musical number where I play the guitar so I thought brilliant, challenge accepted, I’m not planning on taking over from any musical legends but it’s one of those things where I’ve accepted the challenge and I’m just enjoying it, it’s a lovely Ed Sheeran song. To sit and play amidst that talent while my dancers come out and perform a contemporary rumba is really special and just something I really love doing. Plus for the audience they’re used to watching celebrities out of their comfort zone on Strictly, this was a chance for them to see me slightly more vulnerable and see something different from me, a different element to the show which is so important to me, that the show changes every few minutes, which hopefully keeps the audiences excited.

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ON: We’ve spoken to your former colleague Joanne Clifton who is currently touring with Flashdance is this something you’d be interested in doing in the future?

Yes eventually when the dancing shoes are hung up because it’s quite hard to fit in anything like that when you’re involved with Strictly plus I have my own production now. I have been offered a big role in the West End previously about 4 years ago but I couldn’t accept as it was a touring show before it went to the West End so my commitments wouldn’t allow for that as well, I was gutted to have to turn it down as it would have been a great opportunity for someone like me who isn’t necessarily an actor but who can act, and I can sing so it was one of those things that I had to say no thank you but it’s definitely something I’d look forward to in the future.

ON: Finally and we’re sure you get asked this a lot, who would be your dream Strictly partner?

BC: Ooh I’ve had them haven’t I? The honest answer is I’ve had some great partners over the years, I’ve been very lucky but there’s one person who I’d love to dance with, not necessarily on Strictly as I think that would be tricky to get her to commit, Her Majesty the Queen, I’d absolutely love to give her a Waltz lesson, just to dance a beautiful Waltz with her, I’m sure she’s been shown before but that would be an absolute dream for me, that’s definitely on my bucket list.

Further information, tour dates and tickets can be found here. 

Behind the Scenes of Flashdance – The Musical – Part 1 Joanne Clifton

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Starring Strictly Come Dancing Champion Joanne Clifton and A1 heartthrob Ben Adams, Flashdance – The Musical based on the classic film arrives in Blackpool next week as part of a UK & Ireland tour.

Telling the unforgettable story of determined welder Alex, who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, Flashdance promises to be an unforgettable night of entertainment. With phenomenal choreography all set to an incredible score including the smash hits Maniac, Gloria, I Love Rock & Roll and of course the famous title track Flashdance… What a Feeling, Flashdance will have you dancing in the aisles as sparks fly and love blossoms.

We caught up with Joanne Clifton ahead of Monday’s opening night to hear all about the show plus her thoughts on returning to Blackpool and taking to the Opera House stage.

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Opening Night (ON) : You have received rave reviews for your performance, what can we expect from this show?

Joanne : I absolutely love the show and I think that comes across to audiences, I think they can see and feel that, it’s such a different role to the last musical I did playing Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Alex in Flashdance is a tomboy, quite serious, sexy, a really strong woman. I’ve always played lots of comedy characters so I didn’t know how much I’d like playing someone so different but I absolutely love it. The only thing I can’t do is ride a bike and the first thing I do in this show is come on stage and ride a bike, I’m having regular lessons, every day after warm up I’m on there practicing, it’s so much harder than it looks!

ON: Flashdance is such an iconic dance film, everyone who knows Flashdance immediately thinks of THAT water scene, it the water hot or cold?

Joanne: It’s actually cold, I did ask could it be slightly warm as the first few times when it was coming down it was actually shocking me, but if it’s warm it affects the mechanics of the machinery, but I soon realised it’s actually ok as I have been dancing just before that happens so it’s actually quite refreshing.

ON: Is there an additional pressure to deliver something so iconic?

Joanne: Definitely, I felt a similar pressure with Millie especially as Julie Andrew’s had played it, but what I tend to do is I’ll watch the film once then I’ll kind of try and forget about it, so yes I have a link to that character but I’m playing it in my own way. So there is pressure but I enjoy the challenge of doing something my own way and creating my own take on that character.

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ON: You’ve played Marylin Monroe in Norma Jean The Musical, Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie and now you take on the lead role of Alex in Flashdance, do you feel you have silenced any critics who may only associate you with Strictly?

Joanne: I do like the fact people may come to the show not realising that as well as being able to dance I can also sing, it’s nice to read reviews where people have been pleasantly surprised. I love to show people that I can do other things; I’ve been so lucky and enjoyed such great success with my dancing career that it’s wonderful to be able to show people that as well as dancing I can also act and sing and act.

ON: We have heard they may be a single in the pipeline with your co-star Ben Adams could a pop career be on the cards?

Joanne: It’s actually a song from the show, it’s the duet we do together in the show, we’re recorded it, Ben’s produced it so it’s a little bit different from how we sing it on stage, and we’re also filming a little video for it, all very exciting but I think I’ll leave the pop career to Ben and stick with musical theatre.

We’ve heard recently that you’ve signed up to appear in Top Hat during your Christmas break from Flashdance, you are literally the hardest working woman in showbiz!

Ha ha I’ll tell you something I literally haven’t stopped working since the 1st August last year, the 1st of August was when Strictly started so we had all our pro rehearsals and then the show started in September, then two days after the Strictly final was Thoroughly Modern Millie, then Flashdance rehearsals overlapped the final week of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Top Hat overlaps Flashdance, Flashdance then is back so my next week off is the 5th of March, I’m gonna take myself off on a plane somewhere warm and sleep!

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Not only do you ride a bike on stage but you also get a soaking each night, how do you look after yourself to ensure you’re fighting fit?

I think just the sheer amount of dancing I do in this show keeps me fit, I love it coz I really do dance a heck of a lot in the show, when we have two shows a day by the time I go to bed I’m really tired, I make sure I get plenty of sleep but the great thing is I can literally eat what I want, which is brilliant coz I love my food, sausage and mash, pie and mash, I literally can eat anything I want coz it all comes off!

Are you excited to be returning to Blackpool?

Definitely, it’s one of my absolute favourite places in the whole world and has been my whole life because I’ve danced there since the age of about six, from my ballroom dance career then Strictly it’s been a really important place for me and now going back as a musical theatre star, it’s really special for me.

You’ll be in Blackpool for Halloween; do your cast members play any tricks on each other?

Joanne: I’m rubbish at playing tricks because if I’ve done something you can tell, my face just gives it away but I’m hoping if anyone plays any tricks on me they don’t put anything in the water!

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Now you have committed into 2018, are there any other venues you’re particularly looking forward to?

Joanne: I think we’re going to Ireland which I’m really excited about as I’ve never done anything like this over there before so it will be a real adventure.

ON: Finally who would be your dream partner once Ben Adams finishes his run?

Oh heck, it’s going to be really hard to think of anyone else in that part because I get on really well with him so I’m secretly hoping that he will continue with us into 2018 because we have so much fun together, it’s literally a laugh a minute with him, he’s amazing to work with and I feel really lucky that I’ve found someone like that to be my leading man, I would really love him to stay.

Flashdance opens at the Blackpool Opera House on Monday 23rd Ocotber and runs until Saturday 4th November for tickets head to www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/events/flashdance/

Tango Moderno


Following on from the success of Midnight Tango, Dance ‘Til Dawn, and The Last Tango, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace bring their latest offering to Manchester with the much anticipated Tango Moderno.

Sadly we learn at the very start of the show that due to injury Vincent will be unable to join us tonight but of course the show must go on so we have not one but two additional dancers taking his place in the form of Italian pro Pasquale La Rocca and Argentine Tango expert Leonel Di Cocco.


Fusing elements of Latin, Ballroom and Contemporary Flavia and partner dance their way through modern day scenes featuring the ‘unlucky in love’ spreading their fairy dust Cupid style allowing love to blossom. Flavia as always is sublime, she sizzles and scorches her way through each routine, all eyes undoubtedly fixed on her every time she takes to the stage, she truly is the most beautiful of dancers. Both Pasquale La Rocca and Leonel Di Cocco do a superb job of filling Vincent’s shoes, each dances exquisitely, both are strong, sharp and commanding.


The narrative however (yes you could argue that’s not what the audience are here for) is clunky and lacks any depth. Singer Tom Parsons tries his best to give the production pace with clever lyrical rhyme between songs which he delivers with style but each piece feels very disconnected. Accompanying singer Tom Parsons is singer/dancer Rebecca Lisewski, who too delivers some stunning vocals. Special mention also goes to violinist Oliver Lewis who gives a note perfect performance. The dancers who make up the Company work hard delivering some intricate and imaginative routines but at times often feel cluttered as the set takes up a large part of the stage, reducing the amount of available floor space.


As this is a Tango Moderno modern themes are introduced in the form of internet dating, selfies and smartphones, does this work? In parts, yes, there’s a really inventive ‘Tinder themed’ dating routine where dancer are swiped out of frame and unsuccessful dates are portrayed hilariously with some great character acting but on the whole and judging from the audience reaction when Flavia and partner deliver a traditional and absolutely faultless Argentine Tango during the finale it is clear what the audience came for. While there is absolutely a place for hip hop and more modern themes can you really improve on the classic when that is exactly what your audience loves you for? What we really wanted was some good old razzamataz, big band show stoppers that sizzled and wowed, that sent us away with that warm fuzzy feeling, ready to dig out our sequin gowns. When your average audience member (me included) would rather tango than watch Towie, it’s better to leave the tinder and the texting at home.

Tango Moderno on at the Opera House until Saturday 21st November www.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester/shows/tango-moderno

 

Sleepless

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Fresh from last weekend’s Strictly Come Dancing final, it’s been announced that Danny Mac and his real-life leading lady Carley Stenson, will be playing the roles of Sam and Annie in the world premiere of Sleepless, the new romantic musical based on the Tristar Pictures Inc. film Sleepless in Seattle.

With a book by Michael Burdett, music by Robert Scott and lyrics by Brendan Cull, the production will run at The Lowry, Salford from 25th to 29th April prior to a West End run.

Like the much loved movie, Sleepless tells the heart-warming tale of Sam, who moves to Seattle with his eight year-old son, Jonah, following the tragic death of his wife. When Jonah phones a radio show, Sam is forced to talk about his broken heart and sleepless nights live on air, and he suddenly finds himself one of the most sought after single men in America and a great news story for feisty journalist Annie on the opposite side of the country.  A fresh and lively book alongside a brand-new musical score bring this most timeless of romantic comedies to life on stage.

Danny Mac is best known for playing the role of Mark ‘Dodger’ Savage in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. He was given his first professional role as Gavroche in Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Les Misérables, a role he reprised in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre in 1999.  After graduating from drama school, he went straight into Wicked at the Apollo Victoria.  Most recently, he played Warner in Legally Blonde at the Leicester Curve.

Carley Stenson played the role of Steph Cunningham in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks for 10 years. West End credits include starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical and Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.  Carley also starred as Christine Colgate in the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Danny Mac and Carley Stenson will be joined by Jennie Dale as Becky and Cory English as Rob. Jennie’s most recent theatre credits include Maggie Jones in 42nd Street (Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris) Deb in Elf (Dominion Theatre), Dora in Singin’ in the Rain (Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris) and Mae in The Pajama Game (Shaftesbury Theatre).  On television, Jennie has appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show and Victoria Wood’s Mid-life Christmas and What LarksCory English can currently be seen in She Loves Me at the Menier Chocolate Factory.  His many previous musical theatre credits include Max Bialystock in the UK Tour of The Producers, Igor in Young Frankenstein and Max Bialystock in The Producers, both for Susan Stroman on Broadway, and Benny Southstreet in Michael Grandage’s West End production of Guys & Dolls.

Sleepless

The Lowry, Salford

Tue 25– Sat 29 April 2017

7.30pm (Wed & Sat 2pm)

Tickets: £24 – £53.50 (Including booking fees)

Box office: 0843 208 6000

http://www.thelowry.com/event/sleepless