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Combine Romance, Sultry Dance Moves & Iconic Soundtrack - you get a night of 'DIRTY DANCING'

Last night, we attended The Grand Opera House. Having acted in the show back in 2007, seen it in London 10 years ago and watched the movie maybe 50+ times I was feeling a mix of nostalgia and excitement with ZERO uncertainty. I'm referring to the Iconic and much adored Dirty Dancing.

Watermelons at the ready and the auditorium filled predominantly with amorous women , the excitement and anticipation was setting in.

First though for those not familiar, let me set the scene - It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing. On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, she shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters. Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor. Her life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off, and two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.

Dirty Dancing is a classic film that has stood the test of time. Released in 1987. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $264 million worldwide against a budget of $5 million. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. It won the award for Best Original Song for “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, which was performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

The film’s success can be attributed to several factors, including its strong cast, its heartwarming story, and its iconic soundtrack. The story is both joyous and heartbreaking, and the soundtrack features some of the most memorable songs of the 1980s. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey give two of the best performances of their careers, and the film’s chemistry is undeniable.

On to last night - With extensive knowledge of the show, I enjoy it more with each time I see it. The show is a faithful film adaptation but includes subtle character and story changes that make it fresh and new. Being set in 1963 they address cultural issues of the time, albitet not necessary, it does help explain the state of affairs to unfamiliar younger audiences while adding a touch of humour to the story.

The audience erupted when the band started to play and after the introduction we see Baby (Kira Malou) for the first time, you will honestly have to double take, she is an image of Jennifer Gray, you couldn't get a more convincing comparison. Her performance was flawless, everything we wanted and more, she brought an added element to the character for me, bravo .

Johnny was played by hunky Michael O’Reilly, omg the heat went up when he strutted across the stage, with the looks of Henry Cavill (Superman) and the moves of the late Patrick Swayze he delivered on multiple levels, his interpretation was more subdued adding additional mystery and nuance to the part. Asides from being visually pleasing he was so talented.

Georgia Aspinall who’s legs went on forever lol delivered as Roxette turned dance instructor Penny, having read the program i am not surprised to learn that she has won numerous Latin and Ballroom titles though I am shocked to discover that this tour is her professional debut, I thought I was watching a seasoned performer.

Daisy Steere brought the annoying sister Lisa to life, when I think of the character the first thing that comes to mind is the shocking singing and questable dance moves lol - Daisy did not disappoint, she had great comedic timing her Hula was definitely a highlight.

I must comment on Danny Colligan, the role of Billy is quite limited though he does sing a few numbers, OMG those vocals blew me away, Danny reached the final of ‘Let It Shine’ and it is great to see him sharing his vocal talents with audiences - he deserves big things.

I cannot fault any character or ensemble, everyone gave believable performances as we watched the story unfold, Taryn Sudding who’s credits are mind blowing, Jack Loy, Christian James, Mark McKerracher, Mark Faith and Colin Charles as Tito.

Makeup, Hair and Styling were all impeccable and faithful to the looks and characters we imagine from the movie. And final mention must go on staging, the transitions between scenes were so seamless.

The Dirty Dancing stage show offers a fun night of escapism, filled with spectacular dancing and music. The show is here in Belfast until 2nd September, you simply must see it, get over to for tickets, I highly recommend it.

Review by Daniel May


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