Time of my life – Dirty Dancing on stage
Boys. First loves. Awkwardness. Trying to hard. Rebellion. Lack of confidence. All the great moments of our teenage years, and we wouldn’t change it for the world. Dirty Dancing encompasses it all.
The 1987 feature film was a box office smash hit and remains a golden keeper in every girls collection. A feel good, sentimental, heart warmer, about summer romance and the inevitable evolution from girl to woman.
So when the stage hit returned to the West End after a two year absence we couldn’t resist. Desperately excited we were met outside the Piccadilly Theatre, London with a bustle of enthusiastic ladies but with a good splash of men and kids too.
Critics who have vented about minimal staging, costume and unnecessary scene movement obviously didn’t grow up on Dirty Dancing tonic like us; where every man’s dance moves, sex factor and bad boy image is consequently judged against that of Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle (and they are tight jeans to fit into!).
The simplistic set and numerous scene changes actually allow the original motion picture story to be translated to stage, and to us, effortlessly and near exact. The narrative of Baby’s summer at the Kellermans unfolds to us completely true to film which is exactly what we wanted. The magic of the love and awkwardness of adolescence comes alive on stage by our favourite characters, our favourite cheesy lines and our favourite dance moves.
Charlotte Gooch oozes every inch of Penny with her tall, model-like frame, perfect long legs and stunning dancing. She is quite honestly captivating which offers the perfect juxtaposition to that of new dancer, Baby. Played by Jill Winternitz who has clearly studied Jennifer Grey’s character to a T she is a wonderfully convincing Baby. With all the awkward body language and annoying naivety we so love that takes us back to our use-to-be-self.
Bad boy Johnny is taken on by Michael-Paul Jones, who is a perfect contrast to childlike Baby; and although we weren’t convinced at first, he grew on us just as the character does throughout. The heckling hens and gregarious girls got completely flustered over his grinding hips and thrusts- he was well and truly the bad boy we all love and there is no denying it, this man can dance. Really dance.
He will leave you beaming and blushing.
The energy from the ensemble is evident throughout and transcends into the audience with knicker flashing lifts, turns, splits and often all 3 at once. This is a mighty talented cast.
The live orchestra heightens the iconic soundtrack to really dig into our nostalgic core. She’s like the Wind, Time of your Life and Hungry Eyes – all sung by members of the ensemble which dramatically enhances the emotion and passion of those imperative moments.
The scenes between Baby and her father Dr Houseman bought tears to our eyes as they so convincingly evoke the warming father-daughter relationship when he finally admits she is turning into a woman.
The story between Johnny and Baby, just like in the film has you aching for that bad boy you can make good – just like all our teenage dreams.
The finale at the Kellerman’s end of season show is an amalgamation of grins, girly giggles and goosebumps. Johnny roars into the audience before delivering a steamy ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’. Swoon.
Johnny and Baby’s last dance is simply sensational. Every bit like the film: you will be standing up singing and swaying (and you know you know all the words!)
So us Janes say to all the critics, chill out, breathe in those nostalgic musical numbers, this isn’t a top dollar technical production, this is a story, a story of love, that we love. So we say get yourselves down to the Piccadilly Theatre and join in with the feel good magic.
Summer romance, coming of age, rebellion and not forgetting downright fabulous, Dirty Dancing.