I’m sure most of us are well aware of the Dirty Dancing plot, however for those who aren’t, it tells the coming of age story of 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman. Baby is a sensible daddy’s girl who has aspirations to study economics in underdeveloped countries, however after visiting the Kellerman’s resort in the Catskill mountains in the summer of 1963 her world is turned upside down when she is quite literally swept off her feet by Johnny Castle. Lewis Griffiths and Katie Eccles do a spectacular job in encompassing everything we love about the loved-up couple we as a nation have grown so attached to ever since Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray graced the big screen. Their dancing was brilliantly showcased courtesy of Gillian Bruce’s choreography and was packed full of energy from start to finish.
Dirty Dancing is loved especially for its soundtrack and the stage version does not disappoint in this department. Fan favourites such as ‘Be My Baby’ and of course ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’ are executed perfectly thanks to the live band of musicians on stage and the interaction between cast members and musicians give the performance a real authentic feel. Special mention must be given to Roberto Comotti for the beautiful set design. It is completely seamless how the set if physically manoeuvred to indicate the transition from scene to scene and is aesthetically breath-taking; particularly in the ‘water lift’ scene which is paired cleverly with realistic sound effects. Lewis Griffiths was a firm favourite with the predominantly female Liverpool Empire audience who appeared to completely lose their minds whenever he entered stage, however their appreciation was thoroughly deserved. Griffiths has big boots to fill considering how iconic Swayze’s Johnny has become, however he has adapted the character in a way that stays true to the character we love yet has his own twist and is no way trying to be an imitation.
As the saying goes, behind every strong man is a strong woman but in this case, there are two strong women. As well as Eccles’ Baby who is completely endearing and hilarious, Carlie Milner’s depiction of Penny is memorable for her athleticism alone. Her dancing scenes with Johnny are very exciting and exude professionalism and confidence. She is a joy to watch whenever she is on the stage.
Die-hard fans of the film will not be disappointed with the stage version of Dirty Dancing. I watched Monday evenings performance with trepidation at first; however, my expectations were exceeded and I found myself thoroughly enjoying every moment. I sincerely urge anybody who has the opportunity to go and see this production if you can!
Reviewer: Sarah Goldsmith
Reviewed: 18th September 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★