Dancing Shoes is a new musical based on the life of one of Belfast’s most celebrated sons; George Best. Famous for being one of football's most naturally gifted players, Best is equally well known for his party lifestyle and as being on of the first celebrity footballers whose private life was well documented in the press.
Focusing largely on the most glamorous years of his life we see Best (Adian O’Neill) transform from a shy unassuming teenager kicking balls against neighbour’s houses to club owner, serial womaniser and a drunk via industrial Belfast and Manchester and party scene London on to tropical Los Angeles although ultimately coming rest back in his native Belfast.
Little is made of Best continuing to drink after receiving a Liver transplant carried out on the NHS but then this would perhaps not serve as the greatest way to wax lyrical about one of recent history’s best known and loved figures.
Although quite charming and often amusing, Dancing Shoes fall wide of the mark, as a fully fledges musical. The songs in a musical are meant to aide the story and carry the piece along. However, here they interrupt the ebb and flow and add very little to the overall performance. Some of the lyrics (JJ Gilmour/Pat Gribben) are cringe worthy and the songs are at best, unmemorable. Hampered by a poor sound mix and some overzealous performances results in the more touching numbers in the opening scenes less effective than they should be.
This small cast frequently double and triple up on parts even in the same scene on occasion making it difficult to follow the story at times but all of the performers make great use of the limited stage space and the restricted set is maximised during a great number of scenes with finesse. There is no shortage of enthusiasm on stage and the chemistry between the performers is clear to see.
This production is bound to succeed as even today Best has a loyal following and still is one of the greatest football players the game has ever seen. However I am not convinced a musical is the greatest way to celebrate his life. The audience learned nothing new about Best and were patronised with poor quality writing in places (Marie Jones/Martin Lynch) and substandard songs that fail to connect or enhance the performance.
This would be a more fitting tribute as a straight play and focusing on the drama and the humour rather than incorporating songs. An emotive subject matter and a much loved celebrity who could be better represented than Dancing Shoes achieves in its current format.