Where to begin with Dirty Dancing in the Opera House. The band – brilliant obviously enjoying their perch above the stage and rocking the house. The dancing – fantastic, Lambada, Salsa, Boogie – even a waltz or two but the more acrobatic the moves the more impressive, and Penny (Claire Rogers) is sublime. The singing – had us all joining in. The acting, mostly good, especially the leading lady Baby Houseman played so well by Rosanna Franscona, a little girl, on holiday with her sister Lisa and her parents, who falls in love with the professional dance teacher who returns the emotion very fulsomely! These teachers are employed to dance with the bored wives and the frustrated widows but encouraged not to stop on the dance floor but to take their skills into the bedroom.
However, it’s different for Baby and her Johnny, (Gareth Bailey) her youthful innocence captives him and there is a growing physical attraction. There should be passion and chemistry but it failed to get through to me, no doubt Gareth Bailey is a great mover and a handsome man but somehow his looks didn’t linger long enough to convince. Having said that he obviously pleased the younger members (mainly female) of the audience, he has a huge following and they were out in force. For the more mature (mainly female) audience it seemed to be Baby’s father Dr. Jake Houseman (James Coombes) who rattled their bricks.
They were all staying at the Grossinger’s Hotel, a real hotel in the 1960s set in the Catskill Mountains, New York State. This gave great scope for characters to emerge during the show – without doubt the most popular is Baby’s sister Lisa (Jessie Lou Yates) who brings the house down with her audition for a show night by singing a ‘Hula’ song so badly that your sides ache. Only a good singer could possible sing so badly!
Set against the political backdrop during the summer of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, the story line is simple, girl meets boy, boy has regular dance partner, dance partner falls pregnant and can’t take part in the big life changing event on the dance floor of a nearby hotel, boy has no partner, boy teaches girl the steps, they fall in love etc., and they do well in the competition. Except for that one flying leap in the air to be caught above his head, she chickens out at the last minute, not good. For reasons known only to us the audience, the boy is sacked from his job, poor boy says a tearful good bye and it looks like it’s all over. But wait, there’s a sting in the tale of this well know story line, one probably known to many women in the Opera House. the holiday romance isn’t quite over and the leap is yet to come.
You can’t help but do your own leap out of your chair to applaud this energetic and professional company and band above, but the real star is the set, the imaginative staging is breathtaking and even warranted some applause to itself and those behind the design and construction. Make an effort to raise your spirits and go Dirty Dancing.
Grand Opera House
Until August 16th 2014
More details www.goh.co.uk
Check all Anne Hailes Belfast Times reviews here.
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