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Dancing Shoes – The George Best Story - The Lowry, Reviewed

Sareda Dirir is entertained, moved, and has a little swoon

Published on September 7th 2011.


Dancing Shoes – The George Best Story - The Lowry, Reviewed

DANCING Shoes (written by Marie Jones and Martin Lynch) is a feel-good, sweet-natured confection that tells the story of George Best’s rise from a shy, home-loving Belfast lad to the footballing superstar and inveterate playboy the world came to love. 

Sadly we all know how this story ends, and no-one wants to see an icon die on stage. Despite the humour it’s handled sensitively.... 

With millions of Manchester United fans world-wide it’s a pretty canny move. Advance ticket sales have been near sell-outs- particularly for the Lowry run- playing in the shadow of Old Trafford. 

The Quay’s Theatre has probably never seen as many football shirts in any one sitting - and vintage number seven ones at that. 

Aidan O’Neill is well cast as George Best; good looking, a soulful voice, and feasibly good with a ball. It’s a great part for a young actor too, he gets to do an awful lot of kissing in the show and there wasn’t a woman in the room that didn’t secretly swoon at some point.  

In that way at least he’s captured the essence of Best. 

The original score (JJ Gilmour, Pat Gribben) is catchy and at times stirring. From the Calypso- esque, ‘We are the Boot Room Boys’ to the impeccably harmonised ‘Georgie Boy’ there is no doubt that the actor’s have the vocal credentials to carry the show. Marty Maguire’s voice is one that stands out amongst the rest, his powerful, country-soul voice, capable of filling out any Nashville arena. 

The small company limits the show a little. 

There’s a lot of ‘doubling up’ and whilst it’s an opportunity for an ambitious actor to showcase their range it’s always going to take a lot for a good-looking blonde woman to play Miss World one minute and Nobby Stiles the next.

Another flaw is the sparse set, which at times detracts from the poignancy of the dialogue. In the first act, when George and Eric McMordie take the boat to Liverpool for their Manchester United trial a pivotal moment is drowned out by guffaws as the platform representing the ship’s bow is laboriously dragged off stage.

The play and its subject have clearly been meticulously researched. The young Callum Best makes an oddly ethereal appearance, and there are many references to the greats of the age, Pat Crerand, Tommy Doherty, Dennis Law.... 

The second act takes itself less seriously, and there are moments of sublime ridiculousness reflecting the chaos and excess of Best’s high-octane lifestyle. An energetic Beatles performance featuring Ringo and a mesmerising wig, a Vegas Elvis conducting his wedding, a gloriously over-the-top performance from Cher...... 

Gbest5

Sadly we all know how this story ends, and no-one wants to see an icon die on stage. Despite the humour it’s handled sensitively.... 

George’s character shuffles off in his hospital gown along a floodlit Old Trafford tunnel to a haunting refrain of ‘We’ll Remember You That Way ’.

As the final chords die away there’s a deafening, heart-pounding silence...and suddenly in the darkness the sound of a roomful of distraught Manchester United fans clearing their throats, manfully slapping each other on the back and coughing loudly...

Dancing Shoes is at The Lowry (Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ, 0843 208 6000 www.thelowry.com) until 10 September, tickets £18 - £24.

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