Dirty Dancing – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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dirty dancing review bradford alhambra

Dirty Dancing – Review

Bradford Alhambra, April 2017

by Sarah Churcher

In 1987, Johnny Castle bursts into the lives of 80’s youths the world over. In the process, he creates an instant fan base of screaming teens who continue to believe in and adore the love story between Johnny and Baby long after their adolescence. Those screaming fans may no longer be teens, but they are certainly screaming in Bradford on Bank Holiday Monday as they delight in this stage production of Dirty Dancing.

dirty dancing review bradford alhambra baby johnny

A family vacation at Kellerman’s, during the summer of 1963, brings the conflicting lives of these two lovers, Johnny and Baby, crashing together. It creates a story of love, loss, laughter and hope. Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams and you can change the world (or at least your world).

“Some fantastic ensemble dances”

dirty dancing review bradford alhambra liftLewis Griffiths leads the cast as Johnny Castle and is terrific. His dancing is top notch and his portrayal of the sultry but, ultimately, soppy, Johnny is well played. The lasting impression from his first entrance is “that voice!” Deep and earnest with a side of gravel. Shame we don’t get to hear him sing. Rather predictably, Lewis provides the audience with the obligatory bare chest every now and again. In fact, he then goes one step further to reveal his bare bottom (*covers eyes*)! Not strictly necessary in my opinion, but the director clearly thought it was a must have – and the audience certainly do not disagree. Obviously I join in the applause – just to be polite, you understand.

It is futile to try and hide one’s delight as the likes of ‘Yes’, ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Overload’ and ‘Time of my Life’ blast out of the theatre speakers at full volume. The soundtrack is fierce and is accompanied by some fantastic ensemble dances which are sharp and fiery and allow the cast to really show off their talents. Carlie Milner shines as Penny Johnson. Her physique is incredible and her athleticism shows in her exceptional dancing. She carefully delivers Penny’s tragic story with sincerity and gives one of the stand out performances of the night.

“Exceptionally loyal to the movie”

Another outstanding feature of the show is the set – what a triumph. The lighting and design transport the audience into the world of Kellerman’s, both up at the club house and down in the staff quarter. The smooth transitions between scenes help keep up the pace of the show. There are some strange interludes, now and again, with some “additional” musical numbers as certain supporting characters are given their 30-second spotlight. I can understand why. In the case of Mr Schumacher it is to remind the theatre audience that he exists in order for the key plot-line to unveil itself later in the show. But they are mostly unnecessary and do not add anything to the show.

dirty dancing review bradford alhambra cast

This production of Dirty Dancing is a huge hit with the audience. And, frankly, what more can the team ask for than that? It is exceptionally loyal to the movie: the script, the character portrayal, the scenery and the choreography. So much so, in fact, that it borders on being a clichéd tribute act rather than a standalone work. But essentially, that’s what it is. If you accept it, and allow yourself to be washed away with nostalgia, this is an entertaining show that makes for a fun night out with friends.

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