Reviewed by Claire Giles
As a longtime fan of the film I was looking forward to watching Dirty Dancing on stage but a bit apprehensive as well as sometimes film to stage adaptations do not always work but this one definitely did.
We watched the show at The Grand Theatre & Opera House in Leeds. The Grand is based in Leeds City Centre so easily accessible by car or public transport. There is plenty of payable car parking nearby. The staff were all very friendly and helpful.
The classic love story of middle-class Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and working-class Johnny Castle being brought together by the virtue of dance. Set in the summer of 1963 they meet at Kellermans Resort were 17-year-old Baby is vacationing with her family and Johnny is the resident dance teacher. Against all odds they fall for each other and soon move from dancing to the bedroom. It’s a coming for age story seeing Baby grow from being a girl to a woman.
Overall the story sticks close to the film and moves quickly in the first half. The cleverly constructed rotating set allows for quick scene changes allowing the storyline to flow freely. Original film music and lines are incorporated throughout. The music was either prerecorded and played in the background or sung live by Sian Gentle-Green and Alex Wheeler who played Elizabeth and Billy. This allowed the main actors to concentrate on their parts rather than bursting into song which I felt added to their overall performances. All the favourite songs from the film were included such as Hungry Eyes, Be My Baby, In The Still Of The Night and She’s Like The Wind. Projection and lighting was cleverly used to create some of the scenes. This worked well for most but the scene where Johnny and Baby are practicing lifts in the water came across more humorous than serious and had the audience laughing out loud.
As you would expect the choreography was outstanding with some amazing dance numbers, especially the ‘dirty dancing’. The actors who played Johnny and Penny were outstanding dancers.
Katie Eccles played Baby with just the right amount of innocence and naivety to really bring the character to life. Her facial expressions were amusing in parts and so were her appalling dance moves when being taught to dance by Johnny. Lizzie Ottley as her sister Lisa was hilarious when performing her hula dance! This was a definite highlight. There was a much more comedic feel to the stage show than in the film which added some light relieve to the gritty storyline.
Right from the beginning there was a charged atmosphere in the theatre with people singing, dancing and screaming throughout. Everyone was waiting for the big finale were Johnny comes back for Baby and they dance the iconic ‘I’ve Had The Time of My Life’. This did not disappoint especially the lift. The audience were left on a high and the cast absolutely deserved the standing ovation they received.
Tickets cost from £23.50 (booking fees may apply).
Dirty Dancing is at the Grand Theatre in Leeds from 5-17 August 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.leedsgrandtheatre.com or call the box office on 0844 848 2700.
Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NZ | 0844 848 2700