Previous versions of Dirty Dancing pale into insignificance compared to this brand new production currently touring the UK, and as I write this news is breaking that the show is to receive a limited run in the West End this Christmas. Sporting a brand new substantial and cleverly designed set by Roberto Comotti Dirty Dancing looks every inch a West End quality show.
Based on the 1987 film of the same name, Dirty Dancing the musical is a classic story of 17 year old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Hartland) who goes on holiday to New York’s Catskill Mountains during the summer of 1963. Whilst there with her family, Baby happens upon an all-night dance party at her holiday resort. She observes the raunchy moves as well as noticing Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths), the resort dance instructor. Dirty Dancing sees Baby embark on a journey that teaches her a lot more than a few dance moves.
Not surprisingly, where this show has the WOW factor is in its choreography from Gillian Bruce. Throughout it is utterly faultless whilst being mesmerisingly intricate in detail. Aside from Hartland and Griffiths, Carlie Milner as Penny Johnson shines early on before becoming unable to dance after falling pregnant.
Jo Servi, Michael Kent and Daniela Pobega provide vocals as the story progresses at a fast pace. The music throughout the show is a mixture of a live band and pre recorded hits from the 1960’s which works well and culminates in the iconic (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life which is without question the anthem of this show.
As mentioned earlier the set for this show is substantial and cleverly designed. Revolving pieces create the myriad of scenes required with ease and match the fast paced story. My only slight issue was that the execution of some scene transitions tonight looked rather clunky, possible first night nerves in a new venue to blame but for me it was slightly distracting.
Hartland and Griffiths as Baby and Johnny shine the brightest in this production. Hartland’s transition through her dance lessons from Johnny are a joy to watch, cleverly staged and serenely comedic. Griffiths is possibly the ultimate Johnny Castle, Swayze aside, he oozes the confidence and sexuality the role requires, and also a little bit cheeky!
A packed audience from the first bar of the overture made it clear that this show is loved by the masses and looking at the box office for the rest of the week you will need to be quick to catch the show on this its latest visit to Manchester. You will have the time of your life!
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 10th October 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★