Dirty Dancing

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre


The phrase musical phenomenon is oft used- and abused. But for Dirty Dancing it is apposite. Critics can be critical, yet the crowds keep on turning out to see it, and for so long as they do, it will survive.

The film was a sensation on release in 1987, over thirty years on, that excitement and enthusiasm lives on, this stage adaptation, premiered in 2004, has been vital in keeping that spirit alive.

Its secret is no secret. The stage adaptation recreates the hugely successful film faithfully, it gives the audience what they want, word for word, note for note, the DD aficionados know the score, the words by heart, and the extra scenes too.

The music and dance which made the film so popular is gloriously reproduced, skirts swirl, muscular torso’s ripple, the score soars. A classic love story plays out against a beefed -up social backcloth – sit back and enjoy.

The curtain opens in the Summer of 1963. Young Frances “Baby” Houseman is on holiday with her family, chances upon a party, meets a bad boy dance instructor, and learns a few moves which are not found in any dance manual.

We follow her as she has the time of her life, desperately trying to impress her new beau, and learn a few dance steps along the way. Can love draw together an uptown girl and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks? Well, “Nobody puts baby in the corner!”

Primarily, this is a song and dance show. A vibrantly costumed cast, twenty-four strong, arrive in full early on to let you know what is coming your way. Principles Johnny (Michael O’Reilly), and Frances (Kira Malou), are compelling. O’Reilly does not put a foot wrong in his debut professional role, and draws the biggest cheer, and leer, of the night for his bare buttocks moment. Lizzie Ottley impresses with her acting, her comedy, and her singing, as Baby’s sister Lisa. Simone Covele is outstanding as Penny the pro dancer, she absolutely convinces in the role, sporting a series of lavish dresses and footwork which mesmerises.

Choreographer Gillian Bruce does a fine job throughout with snappy, pin sharp routines.

Although we are never more than a few moments away from a song and a dance, the script has some genuinely funny lines. The physical comedy in the water scenes was consummately executed, assisted by some adept use of translucent screens. I have never seen anyone dance on a log before. Perhaps there should be more dancing on logs in musicals?

Revolving scenery produced lightning fast scene changes and a brisk pace, a credit both to producer Karl Sydow and director Federico Bellone.

All the hits from the film's soundtrack, which includes Do You Love Me?, She's Like The Wind and Time Of My Life, are featured in the stage show along with some written for stage numbers. Some fifty one songs in total. The story itself has been adapted for the stage by Eleanor Bergstein, who skilfully retains the feel of the film whilst making it work for theatre.

In The Still Of The Night by Billy Kostecki (Alex Wheeler) was the musical highlight of the night, the rousing finale came from him and the the formidable Sian Gentle-Green as Elizabeth who ensured that the audience had the time of their life, and that lift. A fabulous feel good show enjoyed by all.

Dirty Dancing runs to 6th April and continues on nationwide tour running for 135minutes including interval

Gary Longden


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