Dirty Dancing is showing at Bristol Hippodrome from 3-8 July

The first time I saw 80s cult classic, Dirty Dancing (the film) was in secret under the watch of my friend’s older sister. We were much younger than the film’s 15 age rating and with our parents out for the night we were very pleased with ourselves. Like me, the film holds a huge amount of nostalgia for many people, the songs are so familiar and the chemistry between the original actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey so sizzling, I did wonder how it might translate to the stage.

Dirty Dancing

Image - Katie Eccles as Baby & Lewis Griffiths as Johnny, credit Alistair Muir

However, I was not to be disappointed. We’re quickly introduced to Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Eccles) and Kellerman’s, the resort where her and her family will be spending the summer. The theatre production captures the mood of a carefree summer in 1960s America thanks to the energy of the cast, changing sets and dancing ladies decked out in petticoat-boosted dresses.

It’s not long before Johnny (Lewis Griffiths) makes an appearance and it’s obvious there is magic between him and Eccles. Eccles plays young, naïve Baby learning to dance very well and there’s lots of laugh-out-loud comedy throughout the entire show. The scene when professional dancer Penny is trying to show her the moves whilst Baby copies is hilarious - a ‘what you think you look like when you’re dancing, versus what you actually look like’ performance.

Johnny has some brilliant moments during the show which has the audience in uproar! *Spoiler alert* brace yourself for buttocks! With the amount of whooping and cheering they and his bare chest got, Aidan Turner’s famous shirtless scything scene in Poldark has nothing on this…

Dirty Dancing

Image - Lewis Griffiths as Johnny, Katie Eccles as Baby and Carlie Milner as Penny, credit Alistair Muir

Mention must also be made of the brilliant Lizzie Ottley, who plays Lisa Houseman, Baby’s sister. Her portrayal of this dorky but loveable character is spot on and gets lots of giggles.

The show stays fairly true to the film, the dancing is fantastic and all the classic one liners, ‘I carried a watermelon’, ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’ – you know the ones – remain and are received gleefully by the audience. The beloved soundtrack blasts out all the hits for the most part and a brilliant live band plays for Kellerman’s in-house entertainment. Intermittent vocals from cast members occasionally venture off piste from the original film and sometimes seem a bit off kilter and not entirely necessary to the story, but are well sung.

All in all, this is a vibrant, really funny, feel good, nostalgic night out that’ll have you longing for the show not to be over. The finale, with Johnny running through the audience to end the season with him and Baby doing the Mamba (not the Pechanga) and finishing with the lift had the audience on their feet and hankering for more.

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By Angharad Paull