Note: This review is for the 2021 UK tour of Dirty Dancing.
As someone who has seen the film so many times that I can still recite the dialogue and lyrics by heart, I was interested to see how it would translate from the big screen to the Alexandra Theatre stage.
Dirty Dancing tells the story of Frances “Baby” Houseman, an idealistic middle-class teen who is vacationing with her family at the sleepy Kellerman Resort in 1963. Her summer is about to change when she meets the charming and handsome resort dance instructor Johnny Castle…
Kira Malou and Michael O’Reilly take on the lead roles of Baby and Johnny, and they do a fantastic job of making their characters their own. Malou initially creates a real sense of innocence as naive Baby and isn’t afraid of adding in some over-exaggerated comedy, particularly when learning the dance sequences in the first half. O’Reilly (who began his professional theatre career in the role) is every bit the suave and seductive Johnny, delighting the audience by his very presence, and he’s a phenomenal dancer. The development of the chemistry between the two as the show progresses was palpable, and the final dance scene? Flawless.
They are supported by a talented cast, including Carlie Milner wowing with her mind-blowing dance skills in the role of Penny, and Lizzie Ottley as Baby’s sister, Lisa, whose rendition of Hula Hana was brilliant. Samuel Bailey was very much the sweet and friendly Billy who introduces Baby to the world of Johnny and Dirty Dancing. He has a brilliant voice – I was disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to hear more from him.
Tackling themes including abortion, class and a heavier focus on the civil rights movement, the show remains relatively true to the film, from the costumes, soundtrack and dialogue, including the now iconic lines of “I carried a watermelon,” and “Nobody puts baby in the corner.” For those who may be wondering how the love scenes are approached, let’s just say that nothing is left out… it’s all there.
It isn’t a musical – instead the songs are incorporated into the show with a clever mixture of vocals from Colin Charles as Tito and Amber Sylvia Edwards as Elizabeth, recorded instrumentals and three live musicians – Miles Russell, Ben Mabberley and Tom Mussell – on stage with the cast.
Dirty Dancing is a fast-paced, feelgood bit of nostalgia, and over 30 years after the iconic film’s release, it’s clear that it still has a large (and very enthusiastic) following. With screams of delight and a standing ovation, the Birmingham audience did, indeed, have the time of their lives.
Dirty Dancing will be on stage at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 16th October. Purchase your tickets here!
Disclaimer: We were given complimentary tickets to the show, but were under no obligation to provide a positive review.