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The 2019 Muddy Stilettos Awards

24th April - 22nd May 2019

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Dirty Dancing in Woking

If it's feel good escapism you're after - and a hefty dose of eye candy - you can't go wrong with Dirty Dancing.

“I’ve haaaad the time of of my liiiiifeeee. And I owe it aaaaall to you-oo-oo. Hey baby.”

Be thankful peeps you’re not at my house, because I’ve been at the opening night of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage and I’ve been belting out the iconic soundtrack ever since. And nailing those high-kicks in the kitchen.

It has that effect on people. Or is it just me?

The film hit our screens 30 years ago this year, and for many a teenage girl it left a lasting impression. We all wanted to be Baby. And we wanted to be with Johnny.

The stage version had a lot to live up to. But boy did it deliver. This is no adaptation ladies and gents, this is pretty much a scene-for-scene transfer of the film… in all its schmaltzy and sexy glory.

We all know the story don’t we? Okay, here’s a quick precise for you over there who’s never seen it. It’s set in the summer of 1963, when Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and her family go on holiday in the Catskills. She stumbles across an all-night dance party at the resort staff quarters and meets the dancing teacher Johnny who enlists her as his new leading lady – both onstage and off.

Touted as being full of passion and romance, heart-pounding music and sensationally sexy dancing, it was that and more. The script, intonation, movements, dancing – even Baby’s hair for Chrissake – were duplicates of the original. Stage Penny was the double of Film Penny – and boy could she dance – those legs, those moves, and for pity’s sake, those high kicks! I feared for Johnny’s head on occasion.

Speaking of Johnny. Oh, Johnny! Lewis Griffiths (Jersey Boys) had pretty big shoes to fill in this part made so famous by Patrick Swayze. And let’s face it. No one is ever going to be Patrick. But you have to hand it to the guy he comes pretty darned close with his bad-boy attitude and swagger. And like Swayze, he’s rather pleasing to the eye – from top to, er, bottom. I can say this with authority because he bares all in a nude thong that elicits squeals, whoops and whistles from the audience. But the thing that struck me most about Johnny – okay the second thing – was how he sounded exactly like Patrick Swayze in the film. I’m sorry, Lewis. I don’t know what came over me.

And then there was Baby, played by Katie Eccles who returns to Surrey, having trained at the Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom and Guilford School of Arts. This is her first big role since graduating and she smashed it, taking us comfortably on Baby’s journey from awkward girl to sexy woman.

The ensemble cast, too, were superb, a particular shout out to Baby’s dad, mother and sister, who were funny, earnest and epitomised the American 1960s beautifully. And also to Michael Kent as Billy and Sophie Mackay as new character Elizabeth who belt out some of the tunes. ‘(I’ve had) The Time of My Life’ towards the end got me all choked up.

And here, I’ve got to mention the ingenious revolving set, which takes us easily from the smoky and sensual basement where the holiday staff party all night, to the resort’s big house and restaurant… to the bedroom of Johnny Castle.

If I was being overly picky, I’d say the production lost a little something in some scenes where the characters were a bit stompy and over exaggerated with their performances. Perhaps they didn’t leave enough pause from delivery to reaction for real emotions to register. But hey, what do I know. I looked around the auditorium and everyone was on their feet, women clapping and dancing in the balconies, a kind of frenzy descending. This was total feel-good escapism, and if you’re a Dirty Dancing fan it’s probably the safest return on investment you’ll have this year for a great night out. Book it.

Dirty Dancing is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until Sat 9 Sept.


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