Belfast Telegraph

Tens all-round for Strictly Come Dancing with a plot and hen party atmosphere

By Andrew Johnston

It's probably impossible to review the stage version of Dirty Dancing without making some reference to the audience "having the time of their lives", so let's not bother.

But really, last night, as the West End favourite finally reached the Grand Opera House stage, they definitely did.

Of course, the level to which the sold-out crowd enjoyed themselves may have been related to how much they had drunk and how many friends they were with.

But for a thousand or so women – and a fair number of accompanying husbands or boyfriends – it was the summer of 1963 all over again.

The vibe was like a mass hen party, which, to be honest, only added to the feelgood atmosphere. In fact, make that feel-great! If you didn't have a smile a mile wide plastered on your face by the time Gareth Bailey's Johnny Castle delivered 'that' line and lifted Roseanna Frascona's Baby aloft, you might want to check your cheek muscles. At times the cast struggled to get their lines out or to even keep a straight face, thanks to the traditional Belfast good-natured heckling.

Every song, every dance move and certainly every glimpse of Bailey's well-toned torso elicited howls of approval from the stalls.

Everybody knows the story of what has proved to be one of the most enduring of chick-flicks, and the stage show sticks closely to what we remember from the big or small screen.

Frascona is a dead ringer for Jennifer Grey in the role that almost defined her acting life, while the late Patrick Swayze received a fine tribute courtesy of Bailey's charismatic performance and supremely polished dance moves.

With a live band on stage delivering soundtrack gems including Hungry Eyes, Do You Love Me? and (I've Had) The Time Of My Life, and a clever stage design that incorporates revolving platforms and interactive video walls, Dirty Dancing doesn't miss a trick. As for the themes, the tale of the dance instructor from the wrong side of the tracks helping the naive doctor's daughter find herself resonates as much today as it did in 1987.

Sure, original writer Eleanor Bergstein's re-imagined script amps up the film's humorous elements and the high-energy dance numbers take precedence over much in the way of actual acting, but this isn't King Lear.

Dirty Dancing live is more like Strictly Come Dancing with a plot, and with the audience in the role of the judges, last night it was 10s all-round.

  • Dirty Dancing runs at the Grand Opera House in Belfast until August 16.

Four stars

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