“Nobody puts Baby in a corner” – this classic line from the cult movie Dirty Dancing was given new resonance as the hit musical of the same name hit the stage at the Sunderland Empire.

A sell-out crowd looked like they had the time of their lives at this fantastic stage version of the 1980s classic film, which saw cult characters Baby and Johnny dazzle in the Sunderland spotlight.

For the uninitiated, Dirty Dancing tells the story of the coming of age of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, played here by American actress Jill Winternitz .

The college-bound idealist is spending a family holiday in 1963 in the Catskill Mountains, where she discovers love in the staff quarters of the upmarket Butlins-style resort.

Jill Winternitz looks and sounds like the movie lead Jennifer Grey – right down to the frizzy perm – while Johnny, the resident dance teacher who dances Baby into bed while hardly missing a step, is played superbly by Paul-Michael Jones.

The lively show is faithful to the movie – with the addition of a few extra scenes that didn’t make the cut in the Hollywood blockbuster.

Key moments that are from the film are replicated on stage with a renewed energy and passion that engaged the audience, young and old alike.

Clever use of screens and projections help to recreate classic moments such as Baby and Johnny dancing on a log and the practise jumps in the lake – all without causing a splash!

The action is bolstered by a great soundtrack spanning Motown, salsa, rock and roll and power ballads and featuring classics such as Hungry Eyes, Hey Baby, Do You Love Me and I’ve Had the Time of my Life.

At around two and a half hours (including interval), the show is well paced and as it reached its climax, threatened to have the audience dancing in the aisles.

Near the end, holiday park owner Max Kellerman laments that he feels like it is ‘slipping away’ – a nod to the seismic change that occurred during the 1960s.

But one thing is for sure, the appeal of this story is far from over.

The vibrant choreography coupled with large doses of energy and spirit makes the film and also this show such an endearing, and enduring, treat that will have the audiences dancing through the doors for this three week run at the Sunderland Empire.

By Andrea Thurlbeck


  • Dirty Dancing is at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday October 6, with tickets priced from £10 to £48.50 (premium seats are also available).

Book in person at the Box Office in High Street West, Sunderland, call the TicketCentre on 0844 871 3022 or go to www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland. Booking fees apply to telephone and online sales.