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Strictly Brazilian steps out at Fringe

Co-producer Pamela Stephenson with Brazoukas Braz dos Santos and Gilson Damasco. Picture: Contributed

Co-producer Pamela Stephenson with Brazoukas Braz dos Santos and Gilson Damasco. Picture: Contributed

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

FORMER comedian Pamela Stephenson is to join forces with TV star and West End musical choreographer Arlene Phillips to stage a Brazilian dance show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

FORMER comedian Pamela Stephenson is to join forces with TV star and West End musical choreographer Arlene Phillips to stage a Brazilian dance show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The pair, who first worked together on the classic comedy show Not The Nine O’Clock News, will be reuniting for a spectacular Latin American production to be unveiled just weeks after football’s World Cup Final in Rio.

Last night, Stephenson, who is married to Glasgow comic Billy Connolly, revealed her husband could be in Edinburgh for the launch of the show, which will see a company she has formed showcase the “lambazouk” style of dance.

The production, one of the most high-profile shows confirmed for this year’s festival, will be staged at the 1,250-capacity Assembly Hall on the Mound. Also in its line-up are shows about the actor Richard Burton, the writer Dylan Thomas and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as a stand-up show by comedian Jim Davidson talking about his arrest for alleged sex offences and subsequent clearance.

New Zealand-born Stephenson, who married Connolly in 1989, joked that she may even rope him into help hand out flyers for Brazouka, the first show that Phillips has staged at the Fringe.

Brazouka, currently being rehearsed in London, is billed as “a breathtaking journey of intense passion, sizzling sensuality, pulsing music and explosive energy”.

Phillips, 70, best known for her role as one of the first judges on Strictly Come Dancing, and Stephenson – who reached its final four years ago – said they had specifically wanted to premiere the show in Edinburgh because of the global profile of the festival. It is due to tour to South Africa and Australia later in the year.

The show will be directed by Phillips, whose career began in the 1970s when she founded the controversial dance troupe Hot Gossip.

Her credits include working on films like Annie and Highlander, videos for Tina Turner and Duran Duran, and stage musicals Starlight Express, Flashdance, Grease and We Will Rock You. She is also choreographing the Monty Python reunion shows at the O2 in London this summer.

Brazouka is being backed by Australian impresario Harley Medcalf, the man behind the long-running box office ballroom dance sensation Burn The Floor. He has worked with Connolly in the past on his tours of Australia, along with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Queen, Elton John and Billy Joel.

The Fringe show, said to be inspired by life “on the toughest streets of Brazil” and featuring a 16-strong troupe of dancers, revolves around the true-life story of lead performer Braz Dos Santos.

A former fishermen, he abandoned his boat after learning how to lambada when he was offered the chance to travel to Paris to help form a French-Brazilian pop group. He had been spotted dancing in his flip-flops in a beach bar.

Stephenson, Brazouka’s co-producer, told Scotland on Sunday: “The show probably wouldn’t have happened had I not done Strictly Come Dancing as it really re-awakened my whole love of dance, which I had almost forgotten I had.

“I came across the lamba-zouk style of dance in New Zealand and was completely blown away by it.

“I’ve spent about two years working on the show and have been to Brazil three times now. All the dancers have been hand-picked.

“It’s giving me sleepless nights as everyone involved in it seems to be in different times. I’m getting up when Billy is going to bed.

“I don’t know whether he’s going to be in Edinburgh or not, but I hope he will able to come for the whole month. I had a very painful experience doing stand-up the one time I was involved in a show before so I can tell you this time will be a lot more fun. I’ll maybe get Billy to help with publicity.”

Phillips added: “I’ve been to Edinburgh many times and my daughter’s been involved in shows in the past, but incredibly this is the first time I’ve done anything myself so it’s going to be pretty special.”

Brazouka is at the Assembly Hall from 31 July to 25 August

 

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