Dirty Dancing – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Dirty Dancing Bradford Alhambra 2021

By Steve Crabtree, November 2021

That film classic from the 80s was such a big hit back then, and Dirty Dancing is still a favourite film of many, no matter how old they are.  Whether it’s the music, the dancing, the era or Patrick Swayze – it’s never going to get old.

So, adapting it in to a musical was a no-brainer when it first went to the stage in 2004.

It’s toured the UK so many times before, and it was two years ago when I last saw the production. I’ve seen the film once or twice over the years, but wouldn’t say that I’m fully familiar with the Dirty Dancing story. Something I like when I’m going to see the stage show, which I enjoyed here in Bradford back in 2019, and hoped that I’d feel the same this time around.

Taking our seats, we were welcomed by a view of that unmistakable logo, huge above the stage and in pink neon. And I’m not sure if it was a sell out for Dirty Dancing, but the Alhambra was packed to the rafters. Since they were allowed to reopen theatres, I’ve been here a number of times and it’s been mostly busy. But not as busy as it was tonight. And it was absolutely wonderful to see.

Dirty Dancing Bradford Alhambra 2021

“A very upbeat feel”

We’re straight in to the music and dance as the show starts. And that sets the precedent for Dirty Dancing. There’s at least a dance move in nearly every scene, and much music.  Brilliant for a Tuesday night in Bradford!

And cast wise, we were in for a bit of a treat. It was the same lead cast from the 2019 show, with Michael O’Reilly once again taking the lead role of Johnny Castle. He had the dance moves, and the swagger. And when he whipped off his top he had the Swayze-esque physique as well. This was appreciated by the screams from the adoring ladies in the audience, many of whom had downed a few drinks and were out for a good night. I did feel O’Reilly had a better act two than he did act one. I didn’t find him as loosened up and as natural in the first half of the show. But leading up to the end of the show he came in to his own.

Kira Malou was brilliant as ‘Baby’ Houseman, and she played the naive 17 year old really well. She was likeable throughout, from developing a teen like crush, to learning to dance, and to falling in love with Johnny. And I remember Lyndon Edwards playing Dr Jake Houseman a couple of years ago easily. He portrayed that character superbly then, as he did tonight.

Dirty Dancing Bradford Alhambra 2021

“A show they loved”

The show has a very upbeat feel, and I love the use of some of the real tracks from the film soundtrack. I also like the little splattering of comedy that come out of the show.  I’ve never thought of Dirty Dancing to be a humorous flick, but it has its fair share of funny moments. None more so than when Lizzie Ottley does something in her role of Lisa Houseman.

Behind those in the show was a basic and fairly minimal set that was really good. Thanks to clever lighting and super positioning, it just worked and easily switched between scenes. However, there were a few bits that were factored in to Dirty Dancing that I didn’t think worked. There was the start of a conversation at the beginning of dinner, followed by a wishy-washy slow motion movement to take it to the end of dinner. They could have perhaps done better there. And I noticed quite a few American accents dropping from time to time.

But all in all, Dirty Dancing was really good. And it’s definitely a fun show slightly geared more to the light entertainment factor then the serious theatre type production. Which isn’t a bad thing. You play to what the audience wants to see. and tonight in Bradford the audience got to see a show that they loved. And this was proved by the entire audience taking to their feet and dancing for the finale.

Dirty Dancing runs at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until Saturday 27th November.

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