dirty top

Dirty Dancing

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


Dirty Dancing is a corker! This stage adaption of the famous 1987 film is a winner. In a bit of straw statistical analysis the audience was 90 per cent female and having the time of its life – to quote the most well-known song from the show. I don’t think that Coventry is going to be doing any ironing this week…

If you don’t know the film, it’s a Romeo and Juliet, coming-of-age tale with a veritable onion beneath it of not judging by appearances, allowing your children to make their own discoveries, your first love takes some getting over, and much, much more. 

It’s summer 1963, ‘Baby’ Frances Houseman (Kira Malou) and family go to Kellerman’s Holiday Camp somewhere in mid-West America for the summer vacation. Baby falls – and who wouldn’t?- for Johnny Castle (Austin Wilks - the show's choreographer who stepped in on Press night) dance instructor, cool cat, leader of the dance troupe tired of the mamba, the foxtrot and the waltz. They have created their ‘Dirty Dancing’ below stairs and, oh boy, it’s thrilling, energetic and not that dirty to a 2021 audience.

If you know the story, your questions are different – how are they going to do the scene in the water? Answer, very cleverly and completely convincingly. As for the famous sections, when Johnny Castle arrives for the finale with the famous line “Nobody puts baby in the corner” there was simply a whoop of delight – then the fabulous dance at the end – even louder!

I loved the on-stage music and musicians, loved that the context of 1960s America was laid bare, love the faithful adaption of a film I love, thought the scenes that might scare the horses were tackled sensitively – there’s a gasp at a flash of bare bottom at one point but we weren’t so sure…

I liked that humour was introduced into the Mr Schumacher role (Mark Faith), Neil Kellerman, the pompous grandson (Thomas Sutcliffe) was beautifully delivered, I loved the dancing and particularly Penny (Carlie Milner), loved that Baby could go back to beginner status and do all the things in dance she was told not to: then the final dance was perfect and not that easy.

Did I mention the frocks? Jennifer Irwin’s costume designs are gorgeous. If you love the film, this is a must-see. So, watch the film, then go! Written by Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the original film and directed by Federico Bellone the dance goes on to 06-11-21.

Jane Howard


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