REVIEW: Save The Last Dance For Me, Sunderland Empire
Local lass Lola Saunders stole the show when she made her musical theatre debut at The Sunderland Empire.
The East Boldon singer, who enjoyed her first taste of fame on the The X-Factor two years ago, took to the musical stage like a duck to water when she stepped into the Sunderland Empire spotlight as Jennifer in Save The Last Dance For Me.
Set in the 1960s the story tells the sweet tale of two sisters who head to Lowestoft in their first holiday without their parents, looking for love and excitement.
Saunders is perfectly cast as the older of the siblings, a more worldly-wise and stronger character than the teenager, Marie, played by Elizabeth Carter.
The pair meet Milton, played by Antony Costa of Blue boy band fame, an American who invites them to a dance at the nearby US airbase, where Marie falls in love at first sight with Curtis, played by Jason Denton.
But, in 1960s, his race could be a problem for the smitten pair.
While it's a bit of a stretch to see Costa as a young lothario, his singing and dancing and fantastic stage presence is certainly a hit with the audience.
Much of the show is set on the air base, taking older members of the audience back to their own dance hall days.
The love story is set to the soundtrack of the swinging 60s with hits such as Then He Kissed Me, Can't Get Used to Losing You and of course the namesake of the play, Save The Last Dance For Me.
All the cast put in a sterling performance, working hard with continuous dancing and singing and everyone was hitting the right notes.
But, a dark horse in the pack was Alan Howell, who plays ice cream man, Carlo, who takes the eye of Jennifer.
His performance as a Brummie was funny, but I really wasn't expecting such an amazing voice when he began to sing. His duet with Saunders of Be My Baby in the first half was one of the highlights for me and I was looking forward to a repeat of the pairing in the second half, but was left a bit disappointed when it didn't come.
But, that really was the only disappointment of the show, the rest was a fast-paced and fun revisit of the decade.
And, the audience was certainly appreciative of the efforts of dancers, singers and musicians, with people on their feet clapping and singing along at the end.
Save The Last Dance For Me opened at The Sunderland Empire last night and will run until May 14.