Theatre Review: Dirty Dancing, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: ATG

Written By: Alison Jones

Format: Musical
Genre: Romantic Drama
Date: September 18 2017
Location: Liverpool Empire Theatre

On a rather windy, rainy autumnal night at Liverpool Empire, we were transported to an American 60’s summer at Kellerman’s resort in the mountains (which vaguely reminded me of days spent at Pontin’s Middleton Towers holiday camp in Morecambe and their photocopied entertainment schedules).

The latest musical stage version of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing follows the original dialogue without any variance, albeit at a rather rushed pace, particularly in the first half. Katie Eccles, who plays Frances Houseman (‘Baby’), is very believable and reminds us of those idealistic times and carefree summers.

Lewis Griffiths, who plays dance instructor Johnny Castle, struts onto the stage. Tight black vest and high waist trousers, comb to hand which made the predominantly female audience give a little sigh, most likely in memory of the late Patrick Swayze. Lewis does a great job of bringing the character Johnny to life.

The cast have boundless energy, and the dancing is absolutely brilliant and definitely dirty at times! Special mention goes to Carlie Milner, who plays Penny and managed to merge the strength of a diva dancer with the vulnerability of the character’s storyline.

The familiar songs from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack are all there. The only omission for me was Johnny singing She’s Like The Wind, though the song features as an instrumental. There are some great vocal performances, particularly from Sophia Mackay (Elizabeth), Michael Kent (Billy Kostecki) and Greg Fossard (Neil Kellerman). The live Kellerman’s band did a great job, and the saxophone playing by Thomas Sutcliffe was outstanding.

I didn’t feel there was a huge amount of chemistry between Johnny and Baby, but the audience appreciated every move, recognising and singing along to the soundtrack, and rising to their feet in the second half to cheer on Baby being led from the corner for (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, and a lift that Kevin and Karen Clinton would be proud of (Strictly reference!).

Love conquers the social divide, and on an evening of big knickers, sensible bras and a flash of Johnny’s behind, the audience left the theatre full of smiles and summer memories.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good