Reviewed by Lindsay Burton
For those of us who love the 1987 now-cult movie starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, “the classic story on stage” is now touring the UK with an eager fan base ready and waiting to lap up a live-action romance between working-class dance instructor Johnny Castle (Michael O’Reilly) ~swoon~ and middle-class teen Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Kira Malou).
As per the classic, we meet Baby who is one long summer away from joining the Peace Corps. Hoping to enjoy her youth while it lasts, she’s not overly thrilled when her summer plans find her at a sleepy resort in the Catskills with her family. Her luck turns around, however, when the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny, enlists Baby as his new partner, and the two fall in love. Baby’s father (Lynden Edwards) forbids her from seeing Johnny, but she’s determined to help him perform the last big dance of the summer.
First adapted for stage in 2004, the show’s crisp and pacy storytelling supported by the creative and ingenious revolving stage sets, the accurate American accents and the summer of ’63 period details are delectably evocative.
Costumes, lighting and sound effects are utterly convincing, as is the all-important chemistry between the lead characters, and the dancing – so vital in Baby’s emotional and physical development – is sensual and extraordinary. The choreography is both fluid and exciting, and Malou as Baby, and O’Reiley, as Johnny, have the dance skills and chemistry to give the piece a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it not only work but really invites me to strap on my stilettos and join in with the mamba.
The realistic stormy falling tree turning into the dance-practice balancing log is effective; the lake scene less so, with titters from the audience at the dry hair of apparently drenched characters.
The intriguing personal issues remain riveting, the classic quotes “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” produced squeals of meaningful enjoyment, (as does the gratuitous bare bum scene… sigh), and the challenging concluding lift is the ultimate show-stopper.
Though this is more a play with music than a musical, it still features a brilliantly familiar musical score – Do You Love Me, Hungry Eyes (my personal favourite), and the iconic “The Time Of My Life” are found in this production. Talented Alex Wheeler and Sian Gentle-Green, as new character Elizabeth, belt out a few musical numbers with great success. Special mention to Simone Covele, Penny Johnson, who’s dancing was exquisitely faultless! And Lizzie Ottley, Lisa Houseman, and her wonderful rendition of Lisa’s Hula. One cannot watch Dirty Dancing without fully appreciating this special act!!!
Today the Alex is owned and managed by The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) who are the largest theatre operator in the world combining international stature with core local venues. As a successful and respected theatre provider, ATG has years of experience helping millions of customers enjoy the very best theatre and live entertainment. Parking is easily located near the venue and the staff are extremely helpful and friendly (thank you Gav for running up and down stairs for my tickets!). Don’t delay, go and have the time of your life right now at the Alexandra Theatre!
Tickets cost from £21.90 to £78.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Dirty Dancing is at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from 5-10 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/birmingham or call the box office on 0844 871 3011.
Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS