The musical makes its return to the West End.
As someone who always wanted to learn to dance (but never have really had the confidence to), Dirty Dancing was always a film that I have particularly enjoyed – mesmerised as much by the fabulous dancing as well as the wonderful chemistry between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Now back in the West End – the musical is just as sexy and enjoyable, faithful to the film but able to find its own way with a couple of additional moments.
Whisking audiences back to 1963, Dirty Dancing sees the Houseman family heading to Kellerman’s for their Summer holiday – where romance and dancing are only around the corner – particularly for Frances (also known as ‘Baby’) who soon meets the brooding Johnny Castle and finds herself involved with the troubles that the staff are going through. It is a real coming of age story as Baby grows in confidence and blossoms as a young woman with the help of Johnny.
It has to be said from the start this show has found its perfect home at the Dominion theatre, its expansive stage allowing Austin Wilks’s wonderful choreography really to take flight on Federico Bellone’s (who also directs) uncluttered set. Wilks’s choreography retains the original vibe of the film but with little touches of originality that work well as seen through the ‘Do You Love Me’ sequence.
While some might find that certain familiar scenes are a little bit rushed through in order to get to the next musical number, there is an incredible energy that is infectious and it is hard not to get swept up by it all. Meanwhile, I was also impressed with the onstage band whose performances are really beautiful – including a wonderful rendition of ‘This Magic Moment’ – the show is jam packed with songs from the 60’s and has a sense of nostalgia musically throughout – particularly when teamed up with recordings of songs.
Perhaps some might argue that some of the story gets a little bit lost along the way – it would have been lovely to have some more lingering moments between Johnny and Baby to really develop the romance. However, what is never in question is the chemistry between Kira Malou and Michael O’Reilly, who sizzle throughout (with the final moments of the first act really highlighting this…) – both capture the contrasts between their characters well and show how each develop characteristically thanks to the other person. Malou is sweet and comedic as Baby (her early moments in which she attempts to learn to dance are delightfully funny), while O’Reilly has a wonderful broodiness to him that works well for the character.
There is great support from the rest of the cast as well including Charlotte Gooch as Penny, whose character goes through an abortion – delivering a heart wrenching performance in all the moments she is involved with.Her dancing is also on an incredible level as showcased during the first time see Johnny and Penny dancing, making it all look so effortless. Georgina Castle is also delightfully comical as Baby’s sister Lisa while Colin Charles as Tito has wonderful vocals that are constantly put to good use.
Yes, while it could be argued that the story is a little bit flimsy, what is not in doubt is how sexy, energetic and romantic this show is. If you love the film then you don’t need to worry – you will have the time of your life at the Dominion Theatre.
By Emma Clarendon
Dirty Dancing will play at the Dominion Theatre until the 29th April 2023. You can book your tickets here.