‘Dirty Dancing’ returned to London’s West End on 21st January, and will run until 29th April, at the historic Dominion Theatre.
Produced by Karl Sydow, in association with Lionsgate and Magic Hour, ‘Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage’ is brought to life by a hugely talented creative team and cast.
Over 2000 people packed into the Dominion Theatre, with rapturous applause and vocal celebration from the excited audience, from the opening bars of ‘This Magic Moment’, one of 25 new songs (as well as classic songs from the original motion picture soundtrack) for the stage show, and beautifully performed by Elizabeth (Lydia Sterling).
Just in case you haven’t yet seen the film, ‘Dirty Dancing’ is set in late August 1963 at an exclusive resort in New Paltz in the Catskills mountains of upstate New York, where the Houseman family are holidaying. As youngest daughter Baby summarises in her opening scenes, John F Kennedy is still president, The Beatles haven’t taken over the US and she can’t wait to join the Peace Corps. The stage show differs, for the better, in that further historical detail is added around a camp fire scene, and we hear snippets of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
Kira Malou and Michael O’Reilly return in the main roles of teenager Miss Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and dancer Johnny Castle; the audience was very vocally appreciative each time Johnny appeared on stage from the sunglasses to the tighty-whitey kecks. Kira’s naive Baby really understands how to connect with that most variable of cast members, the audience; her overreaching dance moves are a perfectly-timed comedic outlet. It must be so difficult for a trained dancer not to execute basic dance moves. And for the rest of the cast not to crack up laughing.
Billy (Danny Colligan) and Tito (Colin Charles) own the stage with their presence, particularly Billy’s outstanding vocals, such as his performance of ‘In The Still Of The Night (I’ll Remember)’. From a film with two soundtracks and a stage show which features over 35 songs, this is my new favourite song (sorry, Otis).
You could have heard a pin drop in the approach to the ‘Hungry Eyes’ rehearsal scene, watching the fluidity of Johnny and Penny (Charlotte Gooch) teaching Baby to dance. Then the legendary song, made even more memorable by being performed live by the musicians.
After the interval, Charles’ Tito Suarez played with Redding’s ‘Love Man’, teasing the audience into a frenzy. His appearance in a later dance studio scene with Johnny, offering advice to work hard as a dance teacher, and not end up a gigolo, incites a failed spin, which we know is perfectly delivered in the final dance scene.
There were huge, well-deserved cheers at Lisa Houseman (Georgina Castle) singing and dancing in the Kellerman’s talent show rehearsal.
If I had one the-film’s-better observation it’s that the bar dancing scenes don’t appear sexy enough, compared to the more intimate physical moments elsewhere on stage; Johnny and Penny don’t hold back in their 18 rating moves, much to the delight of the audience. The bar dancing is reminiscent of a PG12 rating, when the talent of the dancers suggest they could easily get closer to each other, as close as the dancers in the film (though the medium of theatre lends itself to more space, unlike a camera lens).
I’ve been a fan of the original film since its release to VHS in 1988, though it took years for me to feel comfortable enough to see the stage show (I first saw the production at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens in 2017, starring Kira and Michael, who was in his debut year). Yet Bergstein’s provision of further historical understanding of 1963, as well as providing more insight into the characters of Dr Jake and Marjorie Houseman, as well as Neil Kellerman, ensures this is a must-see live show experience. Night after night the musicians and dancers recreate iconic scenes, and Johnny must catch Baby in that lift. In front of a real live audience of two thousand pairs of eyes.
As the audience roused to provide percussion to ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, it was clear we all felt the magical fantasy of one of the best musicals on the West End.
‘Dirty Dancing’ will tour the UK and Ireland from May 2023.
Cast: Kira Malou, Michael O’Reilly, Charlotte Gooch, Lynden Edwards, Jackie Morrison, Georgina Castle, Danny Colligan, Coliin Charles, Alastair Crosswell, Michael Remick, Lydia Sterling, Callum Fitzgerald, Nathan Ryles, Tony Stansfield and Chrissy Brooke Director and Set Design: Federico Bellone Writer: Eleanor Bergstein Theatre: Dominion Theatre Running Time: 145 minutes Performance dates: 21st January – 29th April 2023 Book tickets now