Review: Dirty Dancing - Does what it says on the tin

PUBLISHED: 14:39 04 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:39 04 July 2017

Johnny teaches Baby some moves, helped by his usual dance partner Penny.

Johnny teaches Baby some moves, helped by his usual dance partner Penny.

Archant

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage oozed sex appeal all over the Bristol Hippodrome stage last night as its mesmerising choreography left the first-night audience sashaying out of the building at the end of an amazing and totally feel-good show.

Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny sizzle as they practice their dance moves.Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny sizzle as they practice their dance moves.

For those who have never seen the 1987 classic American film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, firstly, welcome to planet Earth, and secondly the story is this - in the glorious summer of 1963, 17-year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Grey) is on holiday with her affluent family at a resort in the Catskill Mountains with her future of a college course, followed by entering the Peace Corps, all secured.

But Baby develops a crush on the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Swayze) who is the leader of the working-class entertainment staff.

She discovers they hold secret after-hours parties and is shocked by the ‘dirty dancing’ they engage in. Intrigued, she receives a brief and impromptu dance lesson from Johnny.

When Johnny’s usual dance partner can no longer perform, it is suggested Baby take over and their ensuing practice sessions fuel a growing passion between them.

Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny practice the dirty dancing moves the story is known for.Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny practice the dirty dancing moves the story is known for.

But can their love survive family pressure and prejudice?

Second only to the stunning dance routines, the infamous soundtrack transports the audience to the golden age of the 1960s with songs such as She’s Like The Wind (which became a top-ten hit for Swayze following the film), Hungry Eyes, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Hey Baby, Wipe-out and, of course, the Oscar-winning I’ve Had The Time Of My Life.

For die-hard fans of the film, it can never be easy an easy task to recreate classic scenes watched over and over again onto the stage so producers Karl Sydow and Paul Elliott use humour to mask difficult parts such as a dance lesson Johnny gives Baby in a river. You will have to go see it to see just how this is done but suffice to say it raised more than a few titters among the assembled throng.

In fact all of the scenes where Baby is learning to dance are done fantastically well and it can’t be easy for someone who can clearly dance to look like your natural movement is akin to a duck waddling.

Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny practice the dirty dancing moves the story is known for.Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny practice the dirty dancing moves the story is known for.

So this is where the main characters being brought so believably to life comes in; Lewis Griffiths and Katie Eccles in the lead roles shone throughout and made the audience totally buy into their coming of age love story with all of its ups and downs, ultimately building up the tension towards the spectacular final up in the form of the infamous Dirty Dancing lift.

It certainly can’t be easy stepping into Patrick Swayze’s dance pumps as the film catapulted the relatively unknown actor into superstardom and earned him a huge following of female fans. But Griffiths fully stepped up to the challenge and left the Bristol audience, including men, swooning at his every move, in particular when items of clothing are artistically peeled off.

The pair are ably supported by a strong cast, including the fantastically fit dancer Carlie Milner as Johnny’s usual dance partner Penny, the diva-ish antics of Baby’s sister Lisa, played by Lizzie Ottley and touching family moments provided by Baby’s parents, played by Julian Harries and Simone Craddock.

Clever staging, including ear-splitting thunderstorms which regularly made the audience jump out of their seats, plus a high-standard of singing and dancing made for a very enjoyable theatre experience and one I encourage anyone, whether a fan of the film or not, to experience.

Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny thrill the crowd at the dance contest.Katie Eccles as Baby and Lewis Griffiths as Johnny thrill the crowd at the dance contest.

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage will be at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday with performances tonight until Thursday at 7.30pm, Friday 5.30pm and 8.30pm and Saturday 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets, priced from £15.40, are available from www.atgtickets.com/Bristol which can be accessed here and includes performance footage.

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