★★★★ | Dirty Dancing, UK National Tour
Set in the 1960’s, Frances “Baby” Houseman goes to Kellermans holiday camp with her family. She befriends the staff of the camp and develops a crush on charismatic dance teacher, Johnny Castle. But when Johnny’s dance partner cannot perform at a show at a local hotel, Baby steps in to ensure that they do not lose their jobs. But as Johnny and Baby rehearse, they fall in love and learn more from each other than just the dance moves.
Based on the hugely popular film of the same name, Dirty Dancing hits the stage in this national tour. For the main, the show follows the story of the film very closely, particularly during the first act, with the bulk of the script being comfortingly recognisable from the film version. There are some additional scenes, particularly during the first half of the second act, which develops the story and which expands on both life at Kellermans and further explores the relationship between Baby and Johnny.
The main cast members were surprisingly like their cinematic counterparts, in particular, Roseanna Frascona who played Frances “Baby” Houseman, throwing herself into the role whilst Lewis Kirk gave the best performance of the evening in the lead role of Johnny Castle, demonstrating some of the better acting and dance moves. The chemistry between the two leads worked well, although overall, the acting from the entire cast was not of the highest quality, and gave the impression that the cast were chosen for their ability to dance or sing as opposed to them being good all-round performers. That said, cast member Robin Lake’s singing voice stood out for his show-stopping version of In the Still of the Night. But the attraction of this show is not so much the quality of the acting but the dancing. All of the routines and set pieces were well put together, well executed and all handled more than competently by the cast, with many of the routines lifted directly from the movie.
The show was packed full of all the songs you know and love from the film soundtrack, with combination of the orchestra performing on stage and some pre-recorded tracks. The soundtrack included Hey Baby, Love Man, Hungry Eyes and (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life along with the instrumentals such as De Todo Un Poco and Johnny’s Mambo. The set was versatile and effective, using backdrop projections and colour washes to separate out the scenes and locations and the scene changes were slick and undertaken smoothly and simply.
But where the show really succeeds is in its ability to bring the movie to life and recreating it on stage. All of the familiar lines, plot points, dance routines and songs are there and there is something very comforting about watching such a faithful recreation of the movie. The show was fun and the feel-good ending had the crowd on their feet, shouting and cheering. For those who have not seen the film, the show is a good introduction to the world of Kellermans. To established fans of the film, the show will be hard to beat.
The show is currently playing at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre until the (tickets and information can be found at http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/dirty-dancing-14/ ). The show then continues on its extensive national tour, details of which can be found at http://www.dirtydancingontour.com/