REVIEW Dirty Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre

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Get ready to have the time of your life all over again with this lovingly faithful production of the classic film.

Adapted by Emily Bergstein, the screenwriter behind the original movie, the stage show takes us back to Kellerman’s resort in the Catskill Mountains, where 16 year old Frances “Baby” Houseman is vacationing with her wealthy family. It’s the summer of 1963, and all Baby can think about is growing up and joining the Peace Corps. That is, until she starts hanging out with the resort staff, in particular the smouldering dance teacher Johnny Castle.

The storyline remains exactly the same as the film, and while that sets the stage for the central romance between Johnny and Baby, the rest of the action feels unavoidably stale. This is, after all, a revival in 2017, of a movie released in 1987, nostalgically set in 1963. And while the film’s pro-choice story is handled with sensitivity, an extraneous subplot about the burgeoning civil rights movement feels like it was inserted simply to fill time between costume changes.

Of course, none of that really matters once the dancing starts; every single cast member is phenomenally gifted, clearly chosen for their moves first and acting chops second. And that’s fine! Some of the romantic scenes between Johnny and Baby might feel a little corny, but their recreation of the iconic final dance is more entertaining than any schmaltzy speech or big kiss.

On press night, the role of Johnny Castle was played by understudy Robert Colvin, who never missed a beat and had women in the audience swooning with his Swayze-like hips. Katie Eccles has a more challenging role as Baby, and here again is where the dancing saves the day; with her body language, Eccles is able to embody both the thoroughly dorky daddy’s girl and the blossoming young woman who emerges in the final act.

And then there’s Carlie Milner, who damn-near steals the show as Penny, Johnny’s fellow dance instructor who finds herself “in trouble” — her first dance is electrifying to watch, and the eye is drawn to her even when you should be watching Johnny and Baby.

Most pleasingly of all, every one of the classic songs from the movie makes it into the show, performed by a live band — including “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”. This is a show that knows its audience; iconic lines like “I carried a watermelon” and “nobody puts Baby in the corner” were met with rapturous applause (as was a glimpse of Johnny’s bare bottom), and it was impossible not to tap your foot during the grand finale.

Dirty Dancing runs at the New Alexandra Theatre until this Saturday (3rd)
Click here to get your tickets!

 

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