Writer: Eleanor Bergstein
Director: Federico Bellone
Choreographer: Gillian Bruce
Reviewer: Laura Hesketh
Based on the 1987 rom-com that made many fall in love with the late Patrick Swayze, the 2006 musical production of Dirty Dancing continues to be a sell-out hit to a loyal fan base.
Set in the early sixties at Camp Kellerman, the ultimate middle-class retreat, Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Eccles) and her family are filling their days with tennis lessons, croquet and games of Simon Says. But when Baby literally stumbles – with a watermelon in hand – upon the staff and their pulsating dances, she enters Johnny Castle’s world of sex, love and gyrating hips.
Federico Bellone’s stage production rigidly follows the classic film, scene for scene. Although fans will be delighted to discover the musical is a faithful recreation of the megahit movie, much of the dialogue is lifted from screen to stage; the first half fires out scene after scene at an uncomfortable pace, while the second half stalls and is drawn out until the iconic lift. With endless scene changes, Robert Comotti’s s mobile set certainly works hard, spinning and turning to transport Castle, Baby and others, to numerous locations.
Gillian Bruce’s choreography is electrifying but there is a real absence of large ensemble numbers. Carlie Milner owns the stage with flawless dancing and ensures troubled Penny is a fully-rounded character. Griffiths swaggers on stage as tough guy Johnny Castle and oozes sex machismo, while Eccles captures the rebellious yet naive nature of Baby. While the dancing impresses more than the acting, there is tangible chemistry between the pair.
An enviable soundtrack permeates the show including hits from Otis Redding, The Drifters and Marvin Gaye. The production’s music is both pre-recorded and – surprisingly – performed live, with strong vocals from Sophie Mackay and Michael Kent.
Dirty Dancing is a guilty pleasure. This vibrant musical promises a night of escapism and is very much a celebration of the coming of age film, its iconic songs and unforgettable dances.
Runs until 8 July 2017 | Image: Alistair Muir