I guess you could call me a Dirty Dancing super fan. Obsessive, if you like. Since its release in 1987 (my year of birth, FYI), I’ve mashed potato’d, done the twist, carried watermelons, tried to perfect the famous lift in a swimming pool AND hotel lobby whilst drunk and perfected the ability to recite the movie line for line, even after many a glass of wine. Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle was my first fictional crush and I still feel like I’m reenacting that Hungry Eyes scene when I wear pants over tights. I have the soundtrack on my phone and even now, the opening lines of She’s Like the Wind can turn me into a quivering mess.
Dirty Dancing is an institution. It’s that film that I scream “WHY NOT!” when someone confesses to having never seen it and despite it being a low budget film when production started in 1985 with a cast of pretty much nobodies, Dirty Dancing become a box office hit. A coming of age story of 17 year old Baby Houseman set in Kellerman’s resort in the summer 1963, it’s a story that has charmed and woo’d audiences since it’s release 29 years ago and has progressed from VHS, to DVD and in 2004, to stage.
In 2004 Eleanor Bergstein, the original scriptwriter of the film, adapted the story for stage and took the whole love story from up on those mountains to the stage of the Regent Theatre, Stoke and an expectant audience made up of predominantly women.With such huge expectation, could the magic of a much loved film 29 years on?
I always imagined the main obstacle for recreating Dirty Dancing on stage would be the sheer number of locations to reconstruct. I mean, how would they reenact the famous “practising lifts in the water” scene on stage and how would Kellermans come to life? I needn’t have worried. With thanks to Roberto Commotti’s clever stage design, which is by far one of the most impressive I’ve seen, you’re transported back to the iconic locations of the film including the staff quarters, Main House and the Sheldrake Hotel.
There’s an endearing quality that Frances “Baby” Houseman (Katie Hartland) possesses. All curly hair and awkward limbs, she’s the apple of her fathers eye with an ambition to change the world but at 17 years old she’s still not fully explored her womanhood. When she meets Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths), dance kid employed to teach the daughters of the hotel guests the mambo, the cha-cha, anything they pay for, the two seem as unlikely a match as can be.
There’s some serious dance shoes to fill in the role of Johnny Castle and Lewis Griffiths (hot off a UK tour of Jersey Boys) plays a convincing part. His delivery is spot on, even down to the intonations in his voice, mannerisms and ability to pull off a tank top and trousers (and that cheeky full moon scene) which left the audience whooping with raucous approval at “Johnny”. Penny (Carlie Milner) as a character really comes into her own during the show thanks to Milner’s absolutely flawless performance and the dance performances between the duo are absolutely mesmerising.
The show really comes into its own after the interval following a rushed first half and that it was that scene in Johnny’s room that really brought home to me just how impressive a show this really is.
With more than 30 hit songs from the original movie being performed throughout the course of the show including Hungry Eyes, She’s Like the Wind, Do You Love Me? and of course, (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.
The entire cast and production crew really do this classic story proud with an incredible musical and visual celebration of one of the most popular chick flicks of all time.
There was even a glimmer of a tear when Johnny donned his leather jacket and shades to leave Kellermans… only to return for that last dance of the season.
Whether you’re a die-hard Dirty Dancing fan (like me) or are after a night out at the theatre with the girls, or guys for that matter, you’ll never be sorry about catching this show. The audience really get into this show. There’s wolf whistling, cat calling and whoops of delight throughout and by the final dance you’d be hard pushed to find someone not on their feet and applauding.
Dirty Dancing On Stage is at the Regent Theatre until Saturday 12th November. Tickets are available online or via the box office.