Dirty Dancing

"If you want to see the film come to life – you are promised the time of your life!"

The Dominion Theatre, London is the most recent stopping place for the tour of Dirty Dancing and it certainly delivers for all those fans of the 1980’s classic film. 

Set in 1963, a time when America was moving into a new era of civil and scientific change, the families at Kellerman’s vacations village enter a time warp where they take tea dance classes and golf lessons with the hired summer staff.  Enter the Houseman family for their 3-week get away, Dr Jake Houseman (Lynden Edwards), his wife Marjorie (Jackie Morrison) and their two daughters: talentless-but-pretty Lisa (Georgina Castle) and Baby.  Baby (Kira Malou) might be described as naive – she believes she can and will change the world.  As the story unfolds, we see maybe she can, beginning with herself.

After a slow start, the party warms up in the staff quarters.  It’s a place where the staff can relax and where the rules of the 1950’s can be forgotten as the partying and dancing gets dark and dirty. 

The show gets hotter when Jonny Castle (played by Michael O’Reilly) appears.  Michael has worked hard to develop a body that would well leave Patrick Swayze in the shade, much to the delight of many in the audience, leaving the rest of us feeling like we’ve gate-crashed a hen night!  Michael embraces the iconic dialogue and portrays the smooth too-cool-for-school Jonny, with ease.  His dance is precise, if a little rigid, as is his delivery.   He does have to battle with regular wolf-whistles and catcalls from the audience, however.

It’s not long before Baby finds herself invited to the behind-the-scenes staff party by Billy, Jonny’s cousin, (played by Danny Colligan) the real vocal star of the show – he makes the big numbers sound effortless. The ensemble is worthy of mention with their very physical and energetic dance numbers.  The on-stage band also deserves a mention; they perform as an integral part of the story.

The stage show seeks to add more detail to the story than the original film depicted, which does give us more depth to the characters but has the distracting factor of a great number of scenes which gave a clunky feeling to the storytelling. Having said that, director and set designer Federico Bellone has created a simple but effective set. 

If you want to see the film come to life – you are promised the time of your life.  If you are looking for a musical theatre masterpiece – this one may not be for you.  However, it has more to like than to loathe and certainly fills this theatre better than many productions.  

Dirty Dancing is playing at the Dominion Theatre until the 29th April 2023 before heading out on a National tour.  Details and tickets here: https://dirtydancingonstage.co.uk/ 

Review written by Paul Wood

Photo credit: Mark Senior

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