In 1992 Baz Luhrmann's "Strictly Ballroom" mainstreamed ballroom dancing in Oz. A dozen years later, a revival is under way. Dance competition show "Strictly Dancing" has rated well for pubcaster ABC all year. A few months ago commercial net Seven preemed a similar concept, "Dancing With the Stars"; it's now the second-ranked web's most popular show.

In 1992 Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom” mainstreamed ballroom dancing in Oz. A dozen years later, a revival is under way. Dance competition show “Strictly Dancing” has rated well for pubcaster ABC all year. A few months ago commercial net Seven preemed a similar concept, “Dancing With the Stars”; it’s now the second-ranked web’s most popular show. Newspaper stories about bumper enrollments at Latin and ballroom dance schools abound. Thus, it’s little wonder the savvy producers behind “Satango” considered the climate ripe for a little musical about tango.

But is the climate ripe for a new Australian musical? Time will tell. There are four launching within a month, of which “Satango” is the most modest.

Despite 90 minutes of energetic double-edged exchanges and what almost passes as lascivious flirtation, leads Sharon Millerchip and Simon Burke never really convince us of their attraction to each other.

He’s the devil and desperate for a date for the impending All Soul’s Ball, the one time each year when the resident souls of Heaven and Earth meet. Tango is his dance of choice: It is, after all, a contract between sex and sin.

She wanders into Hell and claims to hail from drab, suburban Padstow, while his city of choice is New York, which sets up a cute premise for a number. They tango, they taunt, they tease, and eventually the little woman commits herself to a life of fire and brimstone. Or does she?

The big reveal comes right at the end, after too many explanations, and some time after the audience stopped caring.

It’s a pity, because Stewart D’Arrietta’s score is richly varied and some songs, while you don’t quite leave the theater humming, do stand out.

Equally, the stunning Millerchip is an excellent dancer, though you don’t see enough of it, and Burke is as charismatic, flamboyant even, as ever.

However, their efforts, combined under helmer Wayne Harrison, don’t produce the frisson necessary for a production that promises such spark.

Satango

SBW Stables Theater, Sydney; 120 Seats; A$38 ($30) Top

Production

A Griffin Theater Company, Wayne Harrison, Ross Mollison and Robert C. Kelly presentation of a musical in one act with book by Justin Fleming and Stewart D'Arrietta, lyrics by Fleming, music by Stewart D'Arrietta. Directed by Wayne Harrison. Musical director, Stewart D'Arrietta. Choreography, Tony Bartuccio, Jairo Sanchez Rivera (tango).

Creative

Sets, John Senczuk; costumes, Nikki Harrington; lighting, Martin Kinnane; sound, Stefan Gregory; production manager, Marc Lacoste. Opened Nov. 10, 2004; reviewed Nov. 16. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.

Cast

Luciano Satani - Simon Burke Sofia - Sharon Millerchip
With: Jairo Sanchez Rivera Keyboards: Stewart D'Arrietta
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