It has now been thirty two years since Dirty Dancing exploded on to our cinema screens starring the late Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle and Jennifer Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman, breaking all box – office records.
The iconic story of Baby and Johnny has lost none of its pulling power during the intervening years. Since its Australian debut in 2004, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage has become a worldwide phenomenon and can be seen all this week at the Royal & Derngate from Tuesday 11th until Saturday 15 June, as part of its latest UK tour.
There was a deserved standing ovation for the large cast of actors and musicians, as the opening night came to a climax for the final celebrated scene, as Johnny raises Baby high above his head, to the legendary melody of `(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.
Everyone knows the story, it is the summer of 1963, and 17 year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to learn some important lessons in life as well as one or two classic dance moves! On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, she shows little interest in the resort activities, and goes off in search of her own entertainment. She is taken into an all-night dance party inside the staff quarters. Enthralled by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms of the music, Baby is soon part of the scene, particularly when she teams up with the handsome resort dance instructor, Johnny Castle.
She is about to have the time of her life as Johnny’s leading lady both on and off the stage as two fiercely independent young spirits come together in what is the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.
Featuring the much-loved characters and original dialogue from the 1987 iconic film, the show also includes many of the original songs from the movie. Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, Do You Love Me? and the heart stopping (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, the show brought back many memories.
But this is not the film, it is a musical stage production based on the film, trying hard to stay as close as possible to the original concept of the movie. Many in the audience knew the film inside out and appeared to have seen the stage production on a number of occasions too, anticipating key scenes and songs with shouts and whistles.
There a were numerous set changes, some not as fluid as they may have been, catching out some of the set movers, who were visible at times. The lighting and sound effects from thunderstorms and lightning flashes to dance hall `disco` lighting across the auditorium were very effective and added significantly to the performances. Having a live band on stage, `Kellermans Band` added greatly to the dance scenes and I also enjoyed the short musical cameo at the finale, from the three seasoned band musicians.
The lake scene was amusing, from where I was sitting, the scene in the water did not work and the laughter from around the auditorium, reinforced the sense that many appeared to have agreed with me. It was simply hilarious!
The dance troupe were sensational and the dancing, both very sexy and dirty, as the title suggests! In one short locker scene the dancers appeared in their underwear for no other apparent reason than to titillate, amuse and excite the audience. It worked!
There were plenty of amusing moments throughout the show, some unintentional! I loved the comic rendition from Lizzie Ottley as Lisa Houseman singing the simply daft `Hula Hana`song. Classic, not to be missed!
Michael O’Reilly, making his professional stage debut plays the iconic role of ‘Johnny Castle’, one half of one of the best-loved duos in popular culture. Michael is brilliant as Johnny, dressed in iconic shades and leather jacket and was a superb dancer. Although looking a little stiff at the beginning he quickly became far more flexible as the show progressed. There was plenty of hollering and whooping from the predominantly female audience as he bared his rear in one scene.
Kira Malou produces a convincing performance as the naïve and idealistic ‘Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman’. Kira has become a regular member of the Dirty Dancing troupe, having already played the role of ‘Baby’ regularly during the 2016-17 UK tour. I was surprised how much Kira Malour in her physical appearance and facial looks, reminded me of the legendary Jennifer Grey. I thought here was a real chemistry between Michael & Kira, as Johnny and baby in this performance.
The star of the show for me has to be Millie Hood, who plays the role of ‘Penny Johnson’, a first class actress and dancer, she was amazing every time she set her dancing shoes on stage!
Dirty Dancing is a musical show full of passion and romance, combining sensationally sexy dancing and heart – pounding music. I would fully recommend you catch this latest production, while you can and have the time of your life.
Tickets – priced from £11* – can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk.