Dirty Dancing is one of the most loved films of the 80s, so to create a stage adaptation is a bold and exciting venture. This production includes all of the dialogue and iconic scenes audiences would expect, whilst simultaneously introducing new musical elements which only elevate the storytelling further.
Kira Malou as Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and Michael O’Reilly as Johnny Castle are so perfectly cast it’s often difficult to remember they aren’t the original film pair. Yet they still manage to put their own spin (pun intended) on it. Malou’s ability to act as a beginner dancer until needed was excellent, and the humour she injects into her scenes with O’Reilly are infectious and uplifting. Whilst still portraying the earnest and naive nature of Baby, Malou demonstrates the journey she goes on. And alongside Lynden Edwards’ Dr Houseman, highlights the difficulties, for both parent and child, of growing up and becoming your own person. O’Reilly is genuinely fantastic as the stern yet caring Johnny, demonstrating his charm and dancing ability whilst also displaying heartwarming chemistry with both Baby and Penny. The audience become invested in not only Johnny and Baby’s relationship but also Johnny and Penny’s friendship.
Malou and O’Reilly lead a stellar cast of performers whose talent further highlights the excellent choreography by Austin Wilks. Wilks utilises the skills of the cast whilst ensuring the nostalgic moves from the movie remain. The most special moment of the evening is of course the famous lift. Not simply because it’s a stunning moment performed to perfection, but because as Malou flies above O’Reilly’s head the joy, pride and relief on both faces is clear to see. It’s a big moment. One they will have done countless times but nevertheless, seeing that understanding and emotion, as they perform one of the most iconic lifts live in the West End, is incredibly exciting.
The impressive set creates the country club staff bar, dining room, golf course, and lake. Along with the energy the cast bring, the audience is immersed so that a visit to the theatre genuinely feels like a three-week summer holiday at Kellerman’s. Clever set and lighting design transports the audience to Baby and Johnny rehearsing their Mambo on a log and practicing lifts in the lake, whilst the classic ‘Lover Boy’ scene and Johnny’s rehearsal studio become the focal point for much of the show, using a moveable mirror to fill the space. Both leads have distinctive outfits throughout, particularly as Johnny rehearses with Baby and they do their final performance, although it would have been nice to have seen another costume change for Baby following the interval.
The most standout dance performance of the evening is Charlotte Gooch as Penny. Her ability to make every move seem effortless and to mesmerise the audience is unmatched. She brings emotion to all her scenes and her connection with Johnny is very moving. Georgina Castle as Lisa Houseman brings humour to the show as Baby’s older sister, whilst Danny Colligan as Billy Kostecki, and Lydia Sterling as Elizabeth both feature as sensational solo vocalists throughout. As characters, their presence on stage consistently brightens any scene and their incredible singing is a joy to watch. Similarly, Colin Charles as Tito Suarez provides stunning vocals as lead singer of the Kellerman’s Band. It is also lovely to see Jackie Morrison as Marjorie Houseman playing a more involved version of Baby’s mother as she understands and supports her ability to make her own decisions.
This show is importantly a stage adaptation, not a musical nor a play. It has taken a classic and well loved movie and transformed it into a fun, dance filled production with a fantastic cast. It is an amazing night out where you can definitely have the time of your life!
Written by Eleanor Bergstein
Direction and Set Design by Federico Bellone
Choreography by Austin Wilks
Lighting Design by Chris Whybrow
Supervising Musical Direction by Richard John
Associate Direction by Russ Spencer
Musical Supervision by Conrad Helfrich
Costume Design by Jennifer Irwin
Dirty Dancing plays at Dominion Theatre until 29 April 2023. Further information and bookings can be found here.
(Note this link is to LoveTheatre. Everything Theatre will receive a small commision should you book via this link. We greatly appreciate your support as every small amount allows us to continue our core aim of supporting Fringe Theatre).