WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years, you’ll know all too well the effect Dirty Dancing has had not only on the film industry, but legions of dance-lovers, hopeless romantics and Swayze-swooners (guilty as charged) all over the world.
Released in 1987, but set in the summer of ’63, it’s an electrifying, coming-of-age tale of young love, independence, sensual tunes and heart-stopping moves, that sees 17-year-old daddy’s girl, Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (played by Jennifer Grey), travel to posh mountainous resort, Kellerman’s, in Virginia, with her well-off family.
Having grown up in a privileged household, Baby’s expected to go on to college and join the Peace Corps after the vacation, before marrying a rich lawyer or doctor, like her father (played by Broadway legend Jerry Orbach). But that all changes when she becomes infatuated with and lead astray by the camp’s rugged, leather-wearing dance instructor, Johnny Castle, played by the eternally-gorgeous Patrick Swayze.
Originally a low-budget, independent film by a new studio, with no major stars, Dirty Dancing defeated the odds to become a worldwide hit, earning hundreds of millions at the box office. It was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video (ah, those were the days) and its soundtrack churned out two multi-platinum albums and multiple singles, including the fan-favourite, ‘I’ve Had The Time of My Life’.
The film propelled Swayze to silver-screen stardom and put a then 26-year-old, cute-as-a-button Jennifer Grey in the spotlight as one of Hollywood’s sparkling new leading ladies. Rumour has it, the pair didn’t see eye-to-eye throughout filming, but their on-screen chemistry has become legendary.
WHO’S IN IT?
No big known names in this one, but since when does that matter? The cast are superb – every last one of them. Sweet-faced Katie Hartland takes to the stage as Baby, while a rather chiseled Lewis Griffiths steps into Swayze’s shoes as male lead. Carlie Milner, a fantastic dancer, takes the role of long-legged Penny Johnson, Lizzie Ottley plays Baby’s whiny older sister, Lisa, and Julian Harries is given Orbach’s much-loved role as Jake Houseman, Baby’s father.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT?
Where do we start? Firstly, as life-long fans, we breathed a sigh of relief once we realised that this show wasn’t going to play with the storyline that so many of us have come to love and know (off by heart). Preserving most, if not all, of the dialogue was also a smart move. You could hear just about everyone, old and young, rattling off the lines under their breath (including the iconic “I carried a watermelon” and “nobody puts Baby in the corner”) as they watched with open eyes, eagerly awaiting the next sequence. It felt like you were watching the film all over again, only in thrilling, toe-tapping live action, and made us remember why the world fell in love with it in the first place.
As expected, all eyes were on Hartland and Griffiths as they brought life to Gray and Swayze’s famous characters – a hard job for anyone, considering the amount of sexual, on-screen sparks between the actors back in the day. But boy, did they do a good job. Especially Griffiths, who captured Castle’s raw, masculine energy superbly and threw it all out there in its gorgeous glory for us all – everything from his rigid walk and snake-like hips, to his slicked-back ‘do and knee-quivering voice. If you can successfully pull off a bit of Swayze magic on the stage, then you’re winning, and this guy certainly delivered. Hartland took to her part oh-so well too; with her small frame, soft voice and curly locks, she makes a fabulous Jennifer Grey and really held her own – especially during her feistier scenes. Thankfully, her connection with Griffiths remained believable throughout, without being sickly sweet or overly sensual – especially when it came to the famous, saucy “sex/dance” scene, with Solomon Burke’s infectious tune ‘Cry To Me’ oozing from the record player.
Major props go to Julian Harries and Simone Craddock (Baby’s parents), Tony Stansfield (hotel owner Max Kellerman) and Michael Kent (Johnny’s fun cousin Billy Kostecki) – four actors who took to their supporting roles with real gusto and authenticity. They really carried the leads from start to finish, injecting the show with true moments of humour, heartfelt emotion and also, surprisingly, some great numbers. Kent, a smiley actor who engaged with the audience and knocked his American accent out of the park, sure has an impressive pair of pipes – we loved his rendition of ‘In The Still of the Night’, which earned him a standing ovation from some. A character/actor not to be overlooked.
Special mention also goes out to Lizzie Ottley for making the audience giggle no-end with her performance as Baby’s older sister, Lisa. She nails the whiny, suck-up-to-Daddy part, and her version of the character’s infamous ‘hula song’ towards the end of the show had everyone in stitches.
As for the dancing and soundtrack, both made for one sizzling stage show. On board are an obviously talented, strong bunch of dancers who, for the most part, reenacted the film’s sequences step-by-step, paying tribute to the work of Kenny Ortega – the film’s choreographer – beautifully. Song-wise, you’ll hear all the same, loved numbers from the film – including Eric Carmen’s ‘Hungry Eyes’, Otis Redding’s ‘These Arms of Mine’ and The Ronnettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ to name a few – which had everyone up on their feet.
The finale is something special as we see Johnny and Baby reunited for the all-important ‘lift’, which will no doubt send fans into a heart-melted frenzy. Just fabulous.
WHO SHOULD SEE IT?
Anyone who loves the movie. Die-hard fans will love every second, as we did.
WHEN IS IT ON?
Grab your tickets now – it’s on now, but only ’til January 28.