Dirty Dancing tells the classic love story of Baby and Johnny that we all know and love. Set in 1987, Baby is spending the summer vacation in Catskill with her parents. When she is asked to be Johnny Castle’s dance partner she inevitably falls in love with him and the beautiful love story is portrayed on stage.
I was interested to see how they would adapt this show from stage to screen and I was pleasantly surprised, I thought no essence of the story was lost in the stage show therefore the story was conveyed completely as it is in the film. All the classic lines such as “I carried a watermelon” and “nobody puts baby in the corner” received an abundance of cheers from the lively audience. The show definitely isn’t a musical as the music is merely there for enjoyment, not to progress the story along, it is rightly described as “The Classic Story On Stage” as it is a stage adaptation rather than a musical version of the film.
I thought the show was cast perfectly, I could not fault any of the lead characters as they depicted the iconic characters sublimely yet also communicating their own intention of the role without being identical to the famous film stars.
Baby, played by the young Jessie Hart, almost fresh out of drama school, captured the innocence and naivety of the role brilliantly. As she spots the young people hidden away participating in seductive all night “dirty dancing” her curiosity grows imminently. Throughout the show Jessie’s infatuation for Johnny becomes obvious and I found Jessie a highly convincing actor, particularly the way her character of Baby grows during the show and inevitably turns into a woman.
Johnny, played by Lewis Kirk is truly stunning, both in looks and talent. At first I was struck by his inevitable good looks but as the show progressed I started to really understand his character and his acting is nothing less than faultless. As he glides across the stage, he exudes the role of the handsome dance teacher as his dancing is mind blowing and fiery. He is a compelling actor and impeccable dancer, with big shoes to fill. His interpretation of the character is spot on and I don’t think they could have cast it any better.
Penny, played by Clare Rogers, absolutely stole the show for me. Never have I found a dancer so mesmerising, every time she walked on stage to dance I could not take my eyes of her, her dancing was phenomenal as each move was full of passion and intensity. I really admired her ability to make such choreographed moves look so spontaneous and free yet completely immaculate at the same time. In the show Penny suffers a lot emotionally as she undergoes an illegal abortion, I felt that Clare carried out this role superbly, giving it the emotional charge it needs but without putting a sense of heaviness on the show.
The set was quite bare, with the use of projection to show the scene changes. I think projection was probably the easiest option and perhaps as a majority of people have watched the classic film they can imagine what the set would look like. However I felt a little more set and scene changes would really bring the audience into the era and build upon the story line. I also found the transitions a little weak, they lacked fluidity as there was a lot of downstage entrances and exits.
I loved the film however I found the stage show brought a lot more humour to the story which I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly when Jessie was learning to dance, her petite frame and stiff dance moves had the audience in stitches. The emphasis on how much of a bad dancer she was at the beginning of the show made the end dance scene “Time Of My Life” even more heartwarming than in the film.
If you’re a huge fan of the film you will be a huge fan of this production. The story line is identical, the casting is perfect and the music is performed creatively by the members of the ensemble. I thoroughly enjoyed “Time Of My Life” as it was sung live by two incredibly vocally talented members of the ensemble. The energy was electric during this number, it was such a magnificent ending to the show.
Dirty Dancing is on at the Hippodrome until the 23rd of May and tickets can be found here.