Review: Dirty Dancing at the Opera House helps save fans from a summer washout

With the August washout putting a dampener on the summer; there's nothing quite like a holiday romance to help heat things back up.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 10:25 am
Dirty Dancing cast flash mob in St John's Square ahead of return of show at Opera House Picture Daz Nelson

A love story of the classic kind - with the butterflies, passion, excitement, the thrill and sexual healing. Cue Dirty Dancing on stage at the Opera House.

Like all relationships the course hasn't exactly run smooth for director Federico Bellone's big summer production in Blackpool. A third party, namely Covid, thwarting the planned four-week run after the cast were thrust into isolation after opening night.

Not that anyone would have known on their comeback this week as they brought back to life Eleanor Bergstein's most famous project - combining dance and music and lots of energy for one of film's greatest love stories.

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Kira Malou and Michael O' Reilly at Sandcastle Waterpark pictures Daz Nelson

So on a rather chilly August evening Kira Malou and Michael O'Reilly in the roles of Frances 'Baby' Houseman and Johnny Castle transported audiences back to share in the sunshine filled summer of 1963 at 'Kellermans.'

The re-imagining of the hit 1987 film - which made stars of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze - as a stage event has proven a global hit and it is easy to see why. It's a perfect ensemble piece that lends itself well to the theatrical world, with a part live score, great soundtrack, fun-filled characters and of course the dance.

Austin Wilk's choreography is fast paced, dynamic and really does take centre-stage throughout the show. Carlie Milner as Penny, is a sensational dancer and it's a shame there is not the more time to devote to the supporting cast.

Dirty Dancing is not a musical in the traditional sense, more of a hybrid of play featuring music, some of it performed live, whilst some of the hit songs 'Hungry Eyes' and 'She's Like the Wind' played in the backdrop.

In the theatre world it would be nice to see these recreated and more involved in the stage version. Instead some of the live performances, including Samuel Bailey as Billy Kostecki performing Still of the Night, at times felt more like fillers than actually serving the story.

There are a few extra scenes but otherwise the script follows the film version verbatim.

Kira is an accomplished dancer and brings her own style and innocence to the role of Baby and serves the character well as she transforms from sweet and naïve teenager to a woman in love. Her partnership with Michael at times looks effortless particularly in the dance lesson scenes, which are technically genius.

The water scenes add a level of humour without being too silly and it's a joy to watch their chemistry develop.

Michael, who made his professional debut in the show, also demonstrates a confidence in his own version of Johnny. He comes across a little deeper, more prickly than Swayze at times but it works in helping to understand the divisiveness at the camp and how far apart his world is from Baby's.

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Add in lots of cheers, whoops, whistles, laughter and by the end dancing and the cast come the final bow were in no doubt they'd given a packed Opera House the time of their life, which had been long overdue.

Dirty Dancing at Opera House until August 28