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Review – Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing Ostend 4 (Centre) Katie Hartland as 'Baby', Lewis Griffiths as 'Johnny' and Carlier Milner as 'Penny' with Ensemble (C) Dreamteam Pics

For die-hard fans of the film this re-imagining of the beloved classic “Dirty Dancing” might leave you feeling underwhelmed and disappointed. At least that is how I felt last week as I watched the latest offering of this romantic tale unfold upon the stage at the Winter Gardens. Dirty Dancing has returned to Blackpool and after wowing the audiences last year I was sure I was in for a treat but left feeling a little short-changed.

Re-written for the stage, new scenes have been added, backstories created for some of the characters and relationships have been explored on a deeper level. However, true to the original, at the heart of the story is the budding romance of the handsome, misunderstood, dance teacher; Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths) and Baby, a naive, idealistic, teenage with a heart of gold (Katie Eccles.) Set in the summer of 1963 at a holiday resort, on the backdrop of monumental change in America. We follow a series of events that leads our heroin Baby into a journey of self-discovery and romance. While of course performing some rather raunchy dancing with her delightful bow, much to my and the rest of the audience’s enjoyment. Of course, what is a ‘coming of age’ story without the disapproval of the parents? Will Johnny be able to prove himself to Baby’s family and earn the respect of her father? Can Baby emerge from her sheltered upbringing and become a confident, young woman with some killer dance moves? You know it!

The producers and cast have indeed made this story their own. Griffiths and Eccles bring a lighthearted element to their portrayal of the leading roles which although adds humour, unfortunately lacks intensity and makes the relationship between the pair difficult to invest in at times.

The real treasures of this production are hidden in the supporting cast. Carlie Milner (Penny) steals the stage, her skills as a dancer and her thoughtful performance of this troubled woman set her apart from her cast mates. Another captivating performance comes from Lizzie Ottley as Baby’s older sister Lisa, her comic timing is spot on and she is a real pleasure to watch. Throw into the mix the amazing performance of the dancers and you can be carried away into the world of Dirty Dancing even if you haven’t been led there already by its lead performers.

I felt that the director missed a trick or two and would like to have seen the space at the venue used more creatively, this left the production feeling a little generic without any surprises, you got what you expected but nothing more. With that said, the set and costumes were fun, vibrant and successfully brought to life by the actors.

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