Review: Dirty Dancing The Musical

With the early demise of Viva Forever!, the gaping hole at the Piccadilly Theatre has been filled by the return of Dirty Dancing the Musical to the West End. Originally opening in 2006 at the Aldwych theatre, the musical/romance/comedy, written by Eleanor Bergstein, was performed for more than 1 million people before embarking on a National Theatre tour.

I know of many people (boys and girls) who will never tire of the 1987 smash hit movie, starring Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze, and this adaptation has been perfectly executed to ensure that fans of the movie will love this production just as much.

The show is so intertwined and similar to the film that it is difficult to separate the two without drawing their likenesses together.

Quite simply, this will be a show you will love or hate depending on how you enjoyed the movie. If you’re part of the camp that have the DVD on pride of place on your shelf, you will think this is sensational. If you hate (or resent the film from seeing it so many times) then avoid at all costs.

Although I have watched the movie so many times I could act a part in it, there was something about the live reenactment of the sexy dancing that brought the magic of the storyline alive again.

There are certain touches that really get a great reaction from the audience, especially moments that involve a topless Johnny, played by Paul-Michael Jones. Standout moments usually involved him as the lead character, such as gatecrashing the final show via a brisk march through the stalls and the beautifully choreographed famous ‘lift’ lesson in the lake.

Baby, played by Jill Winternitz seems to have been picked for her physical likeness to the film character more than anything else. She like Baby, is like-able, and executes choreography perfectly, from developing as an amateur salsa dancer, to the full-blown mambo, not to mention those lifts which always do seem to be deliberately shaky to keep the audience on edge.

Labelling this as a musical is a bit of a stretch though. Only one cast member actually sings the soundtrack (apart from Baby’s ditzy sister Lisa, played by the brilliant Emilia Williams). Most of it involves intense dancing to the songs featured on the original movie, including mammoth 80s hits ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’ and ‘Hungry Eyes’. Standout tracks include 60s music featured like ‘Hey Baby’ and ‘Do You Love Me?’. But with a lack of live vocals this doesn’t fit in as a great musical for me, more like a concert, or stage tribute to the film.

For those that grew up with the movie, this is a night of nostalgia, sexy moves and wholesome romance. I may not have quite had the time of my life whilst watching Dirty Dancing the Musical, but I certainly had a good time.


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