Dirty Dancing Stage Show Review

When I was in high school and college, I was lucky enough to attend lots of theatre trips in different venues around Manchester. Having visited Winter Gardens Blackpool twice now, I can vouch that none of them can hold a candle to it. The main entrance hall is open and airy, lit with colourful lamps and pillars. Leading off you can find a glassy, modern bar, an art deco coffee shop, a wooden chalet style pub, and a tiled, mirrored room with the glass dome sitting atop it. They even have their own burger restaurant! Visiting the theatre is an exciting occasion, and I firmly believe that the setting of Blackpool Winter Gardens makes it even more so, as they have catered to all tastes to create a welcoming environment that perfectly marries modern touches with classic style.

Katie Harland wraps her legs around Lewis Griffiths' waist as he holds her
Katie Harland and Lewis Griffiths. Photo: Alastair Muir.
My first visit was to review Sister Act The Musical, and more recently I was invited along to watch the stage adaptation of Dirty Dancing. I must confess that I'm not a fan of the film, as I find every character to be sullen, and every scene carries tension. From the first act, I could see that Katie Eccles seemed to share my opinion, as she brought a much brighter attitude to Baby. In doing so, she forged a stark contrast to Lewis Griffith's moody, sulky Johnny, and this made most of the performance much more interesting and enjoyable.

However, whilst her cheery, headstrong disposition worked its magic to bring Johnny hope and inspiration, there was far less character development in the script for Baby, and the portrayal grew a little childlike and naive, which was uncomfortable in the sex scene.

The whole cast assembled on stage for the final dance scene
Full cast. Photo: Alastair Muir.
I do feel that the script let the performance down, as it felt like it had not been adapted to suit the stage. There were a few too many scenes where the whole set would be changed only for Johnny and Baby to have a short argument and storm away from one another, which began to feel repetitive. There was also a single, awkward audience participation scene, which ended suddenly with the character walking offstage.

On the other hand, I was glad to see that they didn't shy away from recreating the classic lake scene, and used clever set design to transfer screen to stage very successfully, using rotating sets, overlaying screens and footage, and even a tree trunk and bridge for Johnny and Baby to practise their fancy footwork just as they do in the film. 

Danielle Pobega and Michael Kent share a microphone and sing as camp hosts in Dirty Dancing
Danielle Pobega and Michael Kent. Photo: Alastair Muir.
I have to say that if you love the original film then you really would enjoy the stage show. It would be a great option for a hen evening or girls night, if the ladies in the audience were anything to go by! Whether Griffiths was lifting in the lake, or mesmerising with his mambo, the audience were loving every minute, and whistles and cheers ricocheted around the theatre several times. My personal favourite wasn't actually Griffiths, but Michael Kent, who played camp counsellor, Billy Kostecki. He had a solo with a variety of long notes, high notes, and vocal runs, and sang every bit beautifully; it was the real highlight of the show for me.

Lewis Griffiths and six female dancers perform a routine
Johnny, the dance teachers, and activity staff enter the stage
Lewis Griffiths, and Carlie Milner as Penny, with dancers. Photo: Alastair Muir.
It would be remiss of me not to celebrate the stunning dancers, too. Every single step was precise and perfect, each routine was performed with high energy and chemistry. Rather than being mere decorations to the speaking parts, they were equally as entertaining, with the variation in the dances really highlighting their talent. They were so inspiring to see, and made every movement look effortless.

The dome, hallway, and coffee shop in Winter Gardens Blackpool

I personally wouldn't watch it again, but that's simply because I'm not a lover of Dirty Dancing. I did find it massively more entertaining than the film, as the live dancers and singers added an exciting element, and I appreciated that the performers put their own twist on the characters. The audience around me certainly had the time of their lives, especially when Johnny lifted Baby high above our heads in That Lift, and stood to give the whole cast a standing ovation.

If you love musicals, I would highly recommend watching them at Winter Gardens Blackpool for a truly special evening. Hairspray, Cabaret, and Cilla the Musical are just a few coming up to entertain this Autumn.

My tickets were kindly provided in exchange for a review of the show, but opinions on the performance and theatre are all my own. See my disclaimer for more.



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