Before dying, the experienced player expressed a wish to be remembered - not for the rubbish, the alcoholism and the severe shyness - but rather for his best. Something that was indisputably granted when George passed away in November 2005. Not only is he remembered by fans, family and friends as a legendary winger on the pitch, but he is also now - thanks to productions like Dancing Shoes - a source of interest, enthusiasm and emotion within the realms of the proscenium. Having debuted in Belfast’s Grand Opera House last summer, the GBL Production’s musical has scored a place at The Lowry in September, and it looks set to rouse a stadium’s worth of cheers.
Having attended the production’s press event, what struck me most was the power that music holds over people’s feelings and behaviour. When approached with the idea of turning George’s life into an all singing-all dancing phenomenon, writers Marie Jones and Martin Lynch turned up their noses. A notion, in their eyes, which was worth rejection.
However, in the car with his children one day, Martin finally gave in to the nagging, using his travel time to listen to the Dancing Shoes CD. Singer Bryan Ferry spoke truth when he said that ‘music and words together...can be a very powerful thing’. From the man who shrugged his shoulders, Martin found himself overwhelmed by the lyrics of JJ Gilmour and Pat Gribben, and was soon attacking the project, integrating the music amongst an autobiographical narrative filled with Belfastian humour and a heartbreaking reality.
Having listened to the soundtrack myself and seen a live performance from Aidan O’Neill (George Best) and Kerri Quinn (Angie Best), his sudden change of heart does not come as a shock. If you’d have asked me before the press launch if I was excited about watching the production, I would have answered with a definitive ‘no’, stubbornly declaring my lack of enthusiasm for anything remotely football related.
Honestly, I’m that girl that sits there amongst excited chatter about upcoming games, rivalry and divisions, and doesn’t have a clue what is being said. You talk football, you might as well be talking Japanese. But, I too was swayed, leaving the event excited for The Lowry’s premiere of the production.
The music may not be of Andrew Lloyd Webber calibre, but its diversity and truth is enough to captivate your attention. Containing ballads, comedy and upbeat melodies, the collection makes it clear that this is a show about humanity. Yes, football is an integral part - since it was to some extent both his success and his downfall - but so long as you are interested in the ups and downs of life and of human nature, then it truthfully doesn’t matter if you aren’t an avid fan of the game itself.
If celebrity critique is anything to go by and the overall production, like the music, has ‘something special’ (Sean Bean) about it, then I am sure Dancing Shoes will have no problem in climbing its way up the theatre league.
Dancing Shoes- The George Best Story is said to be hitting the West End following its UK tour. The show is at the Lowry from 5 - 10 September. For more information visit the Lowry website
- Rebecca Cohen.