Thursday, February 29

Dirty Dancing – Winter Gardens, Blackpool

The classic film, brought to life on stage in front of your eyes… It truly is the film on stage, everything that you love about it, everything that made you laugh and cry… on stage with the same charm as the film.

Set in the summer of 1963 the story follows daddy’s girl, Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman on her family holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Baby becomes mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms she discovers from the staff, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor.

A guilty pleasure, that I don’t feel too guilty about, but I have always loved the 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, I mean, who doesn’t. But as a self-confessed musical nerd, I really didn’t think I would enjoy this show, worried it would be a cheap and cheesy musical rip off of a much-loved film…but oh wow did it surprise me!

The production, although not quite your typical ‘musical’, features all your favourite songs from the film including: ‘Do You Love Me’, ‘Hey! Baby’ and of course ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’ performed mostly by three members of the cast who become the persistent singers throughout the show with the help of a live orchestra and a small brass quartet that often joins them onstage.

The stage show follows the film very closely, with the script being almost identical in parts, which obviously allows for those many iconic lines we’re all waiting for… I’ve never seen a theatre erupt like it did when Johnny uttered the words “Nobody puts baby in a corner”. As it’s so similar to the film, we get to enjoy those memorable scenes, such as when the pair, Baby and Johnny practise their lifts in the water to prepare for their Sheldrake gig. Obviously (and sorry to disappoint) they cannot do this in water on stage, but with some clever staging and funny mockery of the situation the scenes are still very much enjoyable and bring the same delight as the film.

The characters are perfectly cast, Kira Malou as Baby (or Frances) is brilliant, her youth and innocence is played with such sincerity and softness. Combined with Michael O’Reilly who brings the swagger of Swayze to the cool, sexy dancer Johnny Castle. The chemistry between the pair is captivating and brings further beauty to their love story.

The stars are accompanied by a sublime cast of dancers performing some fantastic choreography by Austin Wilks. With 60’s style dancing and a bit of ‘dirty dancing’ too, the group numbers are brilliant, and you cannot help but be mesmerised by the final dance number. Despite knowing exactly what’s coming you still breath a sign of relief when Baby finally performs that iconic lift!

The audience are enthusiastic from the start, knowing they’re in for a fun night, especially after the Act 2 opening performance from Tito Suarez, who truly gets the audience excitable for the next act. The audience’s elation was incessant, but one of the loudest whoops and hollers (apart from the uttering of ‘that line’) was due to a particular cheeky minute from the rather handsome and muscular O’Reilly… But I’ll leave this bit as a surprise.

The stage show gives the opportunity to delve deeper into the relationships of the characters, especially those of Johnny and Baby and surprisingly Baby’s parents, Dr Jake and Marjorie Houseman, as they expose some resemblances between the two relationships. They also focus much more on the timely events of 1963 with undertones of the time where the American Civil Rights movement was reaching a climax and the well-known Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech during that summer. There is also 20 brand new scenes and A LOT more dancing to enjoy!

I was so surprised by the joy I felt watching the production and it’s astounding routines and classic scenes, that seem to get even better when enjoyed live on stage. There is absolutely no doubt that the film translates well to the stage and will get any audience moving and clapping in their seats.

The classic film is executed to perfection live in front of your eyes. Its emotional, funny and a little sexy at times, and quiet honestly it is the perfect girl’s night out, but I know for a fact that everyone can find something to enjoy about this delightfully entertaining production.  Dance on down to Blackpool to see Dirty Dancing until 28th August.

Reviewer: Alison Ruck

Reviewed: 17th August 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★