Palace Theatre, Manchester
Until Saturday 22nd July, 2017
Thirteen years on from its Australian debut, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage has had quite the impressive journey since its 2004 premiere, breaking records across the globe and becoming something of a theatrical phenomenon.
Numerous international productions later, Dirty Dancing is back in the UK for its 2016/17 tour, yet despite its lack of theatrical originality, still proves a brilliantly staged and incredibly faithful stage rendering of the much-adored 1987 film on which it is based.
Set to the backdrop of one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, the story of Dirty Dancing unfolds at the upmarket Kellerman’s holiday camp in New York’s Catskill Mountains in the summer of 1963. At its core: 17 year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Eccles), an enthusiastic young goody-two-shoes who finds herself thrust (quite literally) into the muscular arms of charismatic dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths) when she is forced to fill in for his indisposed partner, Penny (a dazzling Carlie Milner).
Director Federico Bellone’s sultry, ultra slick production rattles along at a superb pace, gliding effortlessly through the various locations and time-frames courtesy of Roberto Comotti’s innovative and elegantly detailed revolving set designs.
Closely channeling Kenny Ortega’s work in the original film, choreographer Gillian Bruce and her ensemble do an exceptional job with what is unsurprisingly the production’s most significant attribute. The smouldering Griffith’s is perfectly cast in the famous, Patrick Swayze role of Johnny, oozing sex appeal and making short work of the vigorous Latin choreography he is tasked with. He is more than matched by the equally well cast Eccles who makes for a charming and loveable ‘Baby’, demonstrating strong chemistry with her leading man and navigating her coming of age journey with aplomb.
Eleanor Bergstein’s adapted book, based on her own original screenplay, attempts to flesh out the contemporary themes of racial prejudice and class society that are touched upon in the film, but despite the admirable attempt to add depth, it remains a little saccharine, and never goes deep enough to warrant it.
Vocal performances wobble slightly from time to time, and the audience participation is an unnecessary misfire, though the rest of the production is strong and dynamic enough to overshadow the show’s more lacklustre aspects.
Pulsating with energy and fervour, Dirty Dancing remains a tireless and seductive production, with enough to captivate and win over both hardcore fans and newcomers alike.
Running Time: 2 hours and 20-minutes (approx.) (including one 20-minute interval)
Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 22nd July, 2017
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