Save The Last Dance

The fun 60s musical. Not the movie with Julia ’There Are More Than 10 Things I Hate About Her’ Stiles.

By Manchester's Finest | March 1st '12

Save The Last Dance For Me isn’t a million miles away from Dirty Dancing. It’s 3300 miles in fact. In Lowestoft. Baby (or here, Marie) goes on holiday with her sister, frollicks with a bloke her parents don’t like, and heartbreak/dancing ensues (things have changed since the 60s, when there was no trauma a good boogie wouldn’t sort – that’s why you see fewer congas coming out of funeral homes these days).

Staged on a US air force base in Lowestoft – with Jack Daniels, saxophones and cheeky Yanks eyeing up even cheekier Brit girls – the shenanigans will have you questioning what your gran got up to during the war. And why your dad looks nothing like your grandad, has a Southern drawl and loves a good rodeo.

Packed with crowd pleasers like Please Mr Postman, Then He Kissed Me, Teenager In Love and Viva Las Vegas, the show reminded me of the playlist in my parent’s Austin Montego on the way to Cornwall every summer as a kid – only without my dad singing along.

This time it was Tosh Wanogho-Maud’s voice that shone, alongside the band on stage – a great touch. One guy sang so low, his two veg were tucked into his socks. The vocal arrangements of the a cappella numbers were impressive too – a highlight being Sweets For My Sweet. Having thought CJ Lewis couldn’t be topped, I stand corrected. I can’t wait for the Chaka Demus and Pliers cover in the follow-up.

…the show reminded me of the playlist in my parent’s Austin Montego on the way to Cornwall every summer as a kid – only without my dad singing along.

The cast is smaller than some. But whilst they struggle to fill the stage on occasion, they make great use of their talented performers in duplicate roles. You won’t see Eddie Murphy in a fat suit, but the multi-tasking did throw a couple of curveballs. Most noticeably, Marie’s mum being less than 10 years older than her. (I imagine they’d done a test run in Hyde first, where that’s the norm.)

It also dabbles in the race issues of the time, but a vague reference to the old Robinson’s jam golliwog and To Kill a Mockingbird is as deep as it gets. But maybe that’s not so bad. Unpleasant issues do tend to ruin a holiday romance somewhat – nobody wants to be the guy to bring crabs to the dogger’s convention.

And it doesn’t really need it. Go in expecting nothing more than a rousing concert and an advert for Now That’s What I Call The 60s, and you’ll be grand. Whilst the folks singing the loudest were of a certain age, if you’re a Northern Quarter vintage queen or trilby wearer, it’s worth going – if only to scan the audience and see what you’ll look like once they start making nostalgic musicals about The X Factor.

Opera House Manchester
28th February – 3rd March 2012

Manchester Opera House.