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on Mon, 19 Dec 2016
He's been a TV star both in New Zealand and the UK, become a proud family man, and he's just finished his 14th season of BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing - now Brendan Cole is preparing to get back on the road with his latest live solo spectacular, All Night Long. In between tour arrangements, rehearsals and general dad duties, the ever-busy Brendan found time for a quick chat with us about his forthcoming show, stopping off at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in early 2017.
“I just got a message through about 10 minutes before we spoke saying that an extra day of rehearsals has just been added for one of the dances, and it's constantly like, 'Oh my goodness, how am I going to fit this in?' There are so many things that need to happen with a show like this, from getting the right cast so that everyone gels on stage, to getting the costumes, sorting out the lighting and staging, and even just the logistics of travelling to different venues - making sure you're not going from somewhere down south one night to somewhere up north the next.”
All Night Long follows a string of three hugely popular stage shows - Live & Unjudged, Licence To Thrill and A Night To Remember - and Cole knows from experience that developing a show on this scale can take a year or more. But as hectic as things can get, for him, there's something immensely satisfying about this process, resulting in a greater sense of pride in the finished product.
“We started working on ideas for this show while I was still touring my last production - I was already discussing potential songs with my musical director and my singers, and as the things start building, it's incredibly exciting. Of course every stage has its challenges, but as an artist it's fantastic to be able to have something that's your own on the road.”
Putting together a show from scratch naturally gives him a much greater level of creative control than he would typically have as a dancer in another production. Nevertheless, every stage show is to some extent a collaboration, and Cole is happy to give credit where it's due.
“This is definitely my show - all aspects of it have my fingerprints somewhere within them, but it's still very much collaborative. When choreographing, what I like to do is get a basic idea of what we'll be doing throughout the show and then develop that further with the other dancers. It's very important that they feel comfortable on stage and are doing things that are inspiring to them, because otherwise you're not going to get the best out of them. So I would say it's about 60 to 70% me, and then the rest we do together. But most choreographers will work with a team - my team just happens to be my cast.”
As much as anything, then, it's the cast that makes the show, and Cole has assembled a hugely talented team to help realise his ideas on stage.
“We've got a really dynamic cast. Everyone's got something a little bit unique about them, and they all bring something different. You always want to be inspired by your contemporaries - you want to be pushed by what they do and to push them with what you do. Also, if I have to run off for a costume change, I want whoever I leave out there to be able to hold that stage and be amazing.
“When my leading lady, Faye [Huddleston], first came in for casting, straight away I thought, 'Wow, what a presence that girl's got!' And when we started dancing together, it felt great and she looked great, and I'm really excited to see what we produce out on stage, especially in the more intimate ballroom numbers.”
As much as he enjoys the high-octane, energetic routines, it's these more intimate, understated numbers that are always Cole's favourites to perform, providing the emotional heart of a show.
“I always love the waltzes - the really beautiful ones that are very special emotionally. That's where you see the audience really connect with you, and it creates this amazing atmosphere that brings them into the show.”
Nevertheless, for those who prefer something with a bit more pizazz, there'll still be plenty to look forward to. As ever, this promises to be a thrillingly varied production, with 22 numbers ranging from delicate waltzes to dramatic power ballads and from upbeat jives to sexy tangos and rumbas.
“In my first production, we did a back-lit number behind a screen so the shadows of the dancers were projected onto it, and the audience loved it. This year, we're going back to that idea, but this time the screens will be moving and we'll be dancing with them to a really powerful Tina Turner number called I Can't Stand The Rain, so that's quite exciting. We're also working on a great little Argentine tango at the moment which is coming along nicely.”
As anyone who's seen any of Cole's previous live productions will know, they're more than just their choreography. Like Strictly itself, these shows offer an all-round entertainment package, complete with discussion, incredible costumes, fabulous sets and carefully chosen music, all designed to appeal to an audience that spans generations.
“There's no through-narrative to the show, but what it offers is a chance for people to experience a bit of Strictly magic first-hand after it disappears from our screens at the end of the year. When creating modern productions, I think it's really important to have something for everybody. Strictly has a very diverse audience covering all ages, and we have to try to cater for all of them. Hopefully it should be a really good night out where people can celebrate what they know and love.”
Cole isn't the only Strictly star to have created a series of successful shows off the back of his TV appearances. His co-star, Anton du Beke, also tours productions in a similar format and scale, and as the success of the series continues, there's also an increasing number of smaller post-Strictly shows springing up around the country.
“Most of them are very different to this, so there's not really any competition. Anton and myself have been touring for quite a long time now, and we've both got shows that are similar in style, but I think they run side-by-side very well. We've got a really good friendship and we're all very supportive of each other in what we choose to put on.”
Having joined the show during its very first season back in 2004, Cole has become one of the stalwarts of the Strictly family. While others have gone on to other things, for Cole, there's something special about the series that keeps him coming back for more.
“I love the show! It's a magical show to be a part of, and I think we're very lucky. There are so many aspects of it for people to enjoy, whether it's the raw emotions and the relationships, the creativity or just the spectacle of it. It's a lovely thing to have as part of your life.”
But when he's able to tear himself away from the bright lights of the studio, he loves being out on tour, and his West Midlands dates are two of the shows he's looking forward to most.
“Wolverhampton will be our opening night, so there's going to be a lot of nerves and excitement. You can only do so much in rehearsals, so we won't know exactly what the show's going to look like till it comes together on stage. And then in Birmingham, Symphony Hall is just a magnificent venue - I genuinely get tingles when I walk in there. So going from Wolverhampton at the start of the tour and coming back to perform at what's probably one of the best venues in the northern hemisphere, if not the world, is going to be sensational, and I can't wait to play both.”
All Night Long shows at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Thursday 26 January and at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, on Friday 24 March