Nobody puts this show in the corner.
Possibly one of the most iconic movies of the 80’s, packed with oft quoted dialogue, wonderful costumes, a wicked soundtrack and of course, THAT lift, Dirty Dancing was, and probably still is, the much loved, and most watched film for a generation. Its transferral from film to stage has certainly not harmed it at all, in fact some subtle changes help explain cultural references unfamiliar to younger audiences while giving it a new feel to those familiar to the original. Exploring quite serious topics such as teenage pregnancy, classism, racism and exploitation doesn’t initially suggest a feel-good show but these are all ‘of a time’ which, through the brilliance of the script and the under the keen eye of Director Federico Bellone) ensure they are dealt with tact and consideration.
The story begins with the Houseman family arriving Kellermans, a bustling Catskills resort at the height of the summer season. Frances “Baby” Houseman, played by Kira Malou, sets the scene as we’re transported back to 1963. Bored of the wholesome activities, wannabee activist “Baby” gets drawn in by some of the staff members who need her help and very soon she’s fallen in love with dance teacher Johnny Castle (Michael O’Reilly). Jealousy, prejudice and no small amount of teenage angst follow but the real thread to this story is undoubtedly the dancing, dirty or otherwise.
In turning a 90-minute film into a two-hour stage experience there are some additional scenes, particularly in the second act that expands a little on the prejudice of Dr Houseman (Jack Loy), gives his wife a few more lines, and of course, as this is a dance musical, there is plenty of space for traditional ballroom numbers as well as the saucier sections in the afterhours staff club.
Throughout the show the compact set with white wooden fencing, panelling and string lights is expertly used to become several aspects of the holiday resort. The now famous lake scene where they practise the lift, which could be very tricky to recreate on stage, is very creatively done (but no spoilers here).
In the final scene the audience are encouraged to act as the real audience for the end of season show, complete with the ubiquitous reprise and ‘everyone on their feet’ finale.
For fans of the film you won’t be disappointed; the script borrows heavily, the playlist extensively and the look & feel completely from the 1987 Linda Gottlieb movie. Even if you’re not a fan of the original it’s certainly worth going, you could just have the time of your life.