REVIEW: Dirty Dancing at the Sunderland Empire

Dirty Dancing at the Sunderland Empire. Left to right; Nicky Griffiths who plays Penny Johnson, Paul-Michael Jones plays Johnny Castle, and Jill Winternitz who plays Babe Houseman.

Dirty Dancing at the Sunderland Empire. Left to right; Nicky Griffiths who plays Penny Johnson, Paul-Michael Jones plays Johnny Castle, and Jill Winternitz who plays Babe Houseman.

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AS the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Such is the mantra of the producers of Dirty Dancing the musical who pay a faithful homage to the 1987 film it was inspired by.

I’m guessing this was in fear of being lynched by the zealous fans the hit flick has accrued since its release, but also because, at its heart, Dirty Dancing has a simple yet effective plot.

What’s not to love about a pint-sized feisty teenager becoming a woman after being swept off her feet by a suave dance instructor?

There’s been much buzz about the musical coming to the Empire, its North East debut, and it didn’t disappoint.

Star of the show is Johnny, played to perfection by the rather dashing Paul-Michael Jones. He seems most at ease with his character as he leaps around the stage in a feat of masculine athleticism.

The girls swooned and he fed off the audience, delivering classic lines such as “Nobody puts baby in a corner” with aplomb.

His co-star Nicky Griffiths’ legs deserve a billing of their own as she sexily sashayed to the rhythm of the music as Penny Johnson.

She didn’t appear to put a foot wrong as the troubled dancer from the wrong side of the tracks and the mostly female audience seemed in awe of her slinky moves.

American actress Jill Winternitz gave a more comic turn as Baby and you couldn’t help but root for her as she attempted, rather clumsily, to master a routine in place of Penny.

It is of course the final dance which had everyone on their feet. I defy you not to feel elated as Johnny comes back from exile for Baby, lifting her high above the stage.

Even the SAFC footballers, who were sat near us, whooped and cheered. It’s official: Dirty Dancing the musical is infectious. Catch it if you can.