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Dirty Dancing

Published by: Kirstie Niland on 31st Aug 2017 | View all blogs by Kirstie Niland

Until Saturday 2nd September 2017, Blackpool Opera House

The cult musical Dirty Dancing continues to thrill audiences of all generations and the UK tour is currently smashing it in Blackpool.

The cast’s evident delight at the standing ovation on opening night added to the everlasting charm and they drew lots of laughs and applause throughout as the 1963 love story of Johnny Castle and Frances "Baby" Houseman unfolded at Kellerman’s holiday resort.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the live show and it is difficult not to compare the characters to the film version, but the cast manage to resemble the original stars as well as add their own personal touch to their performances, succeeding in delivering all of the anticipated lines and moments with panache. Lizzie Ottley in particular puts a stamp on her role as Lisa Houseman, with hints of Marilyn Monroe enhancing her humourous rendition of the Hula Hana song.

This is also true of the actual scenes, with all of the favourites in there plus a few extra parts providing depth to characters that are more one-dimensional in the film.

For example Neil, the grandson of the resort’s owner Max Kellerman, is much more likeable, and we see him go on his own journey, from trying and failing to impress Baby with his job, to setting off on his own path of discovery. Greg Fossard gives Neil an endearing quality that makes us really happy for him as he gets his backpack on and leaves Kellerman’s to join the Freedom Rally.

Then some additional scenes featuring Marjorie Houseman highlight Baby’s fall from grace and the pedestal her father has placed her on, and explain his eventual acceptance of Johnny despite the class difference – he wasn’t always an upwardly mobile doctor and the Housemans do remember what teenage love felt like. The backstory helps us warm more to Baby’s seemingly spoilt sister Lisa as the two become closer through the drama and experience of their summer romances.

The plot of the film was controversial at the time of the film’s release in 1987 but screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein won her fight to keep the storyline involving an illegal abortion - and against all odds the low budget movie became a box office hit. Carlie Milner's acting skills and performances with the English National Ballet and National Ballet of Ireland make her the ideal choice for the streetwise yet innocent Penny Johnson who falls pregnant but for whom the show must go on - and whose captivating dancing Baby is so envious of.

There’s no doubt that the attraction of this film is the upbeat love story, music and dancing, but the subplot and social issues keep it real, meaning we root even more for Johnny and Baby’s love to conquer the class divide. It’s also why it never gets old. The movie reached its 30th anniversary this August but three decades on the issues are still relevant and we all long for a happy ending.

Lewis Griffiths and Katie Eccles as the world-famous Johnny and Baby have plenty of chemistry and charisma, expertly mimicking the movements of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to successfully pull off all of the film's magical moments - and then some. The bedroom scenes are definitely more racy and we see a little bit more of Johnny in the show than we do in the film! Lewis has the necessary presence to turn a couple of thousand heads as he strides up the aisle for the iconic “Nobody puts Baby in a corner" scene; and Katie shows unrelenting feistiness as the idealistic Baby falls in love, learns a few lessons about real life along the way and, through Johnny, begins to settle into her real, grown up name of Frances. Ahhh.

Together they join the ensemble for a finale just as exhilarating as if it was the first time.

Book tickets here

Photographs courtesy of Winter Gardens Blackpool.



  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 10 months ago
    Lovely review, Kirstie.
  • Kirstie Niland
    by Kirstie Niland 10 months ago
    Thank you! I never get tired of Dirty Dancing, one of my all time favourites :-)
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