Dirty Dancing (UK Tour), Bristol Hippodrome | Review

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Dirty Dancing (UK Tour)
London Palladium 
Reviewed on Monday 1st July 2019 by Emma Gradwell

It is the summer of 1963. Frances "Baby" Houseman is on holiday with her parents and sister at Kellerman's, a holiday resort in the mountains owned by a family friend. The mundane entertainment leaves Baby disinterested and she is quickly distracted by the underground evening activities enjoyed by the staff. Baby's desire to help leads her to having a crash course in Latin Dancing to cover the tracks for her new friends and to learn some life lessons as she grows from a naive girl into a confident and sensual woman.

Katie Eccles is sweet as Baby and her scenes with Michael O'Reilly as Johnny range from comedic to sultry. As a couple the chemistry builds slowly as the characters become better acquainted. There are times that movement and dialogue seem forced and exaggerated for effect in a way that is unnecessary.

The dancing, choreographed by Gillian Bruce is expertly performed. Dirty Dancing is certainly a dance led production and Simone Covele as Penny gives a stand out performance. The energy hits its highs during the group performances, which is when the show is at its best, peaking with the finale - and that lift!

There are times when the acting seems not as effortless as the movement, but this is not a complicated story and the show is driven by the dance. Lizzie Otley puts her own spin as Lisa Houseman during the Hula number and provides an unforced comic moment that stands out.

Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage is a faithful retelling of the much loved film. Costumes designed by Jennifer Irwin are near enough identical to their on screen counterparts and Federico Bellone's production is almost word for word as it is on screen. This makes for a nostalgic revisiting to a familiar story for many who grew up in the 80's and hold a special place in their hearts for Baby and Johnny. Roberto Comotti's rotating set design is vast and ambitious. Combined with Valerie Tiberi's lighting design which expertly uses projection to bring to life Johnny and Baby's lake lift. 

This is not traditional musical theatre and it is not marketed as such. Very few of the main characters sing and most vocal performances are sung alongside the story with a live band on stage with them, which is a nice touch. Much of the score is pre-recorded classics from the era and I would have preferred live performances.

Dirty Dancing is an enduringly popular brand and the latest touring offering should keep fans satisfied.

photo credit: Alastair Muir


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