Dominion Theatre, London – until 16 April 2022
Dirty Dancing is one of the cult classic films that’s beloved by many generations and continually stands the test of time, so a stage version has a built-in audience. The show is a faithful adaptation of the film, following the story of ‘Baby’ Houseman as she spends a family holiday discovering love, relationships, sex and inequality.
There are also a number of subplots including an illegal abortion and the civil rights movement which doesn’t quite land and feels somewhat shoehorned in but is a nice attempt at making an otherwise surface level show have some depth. Parts of the plot are lacklustre, but overall it’s a fun revival that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Filling Patrick Swayze’s shoes as leading man Johnny Castle is definitely a tough job, but Michael O’Reilly does so excellently and has the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he enters in a Disney prince fashion. His dancing is skilful and he uses the minimal dialogue to command the stage and draw attention throughout, as well as showing a more vulnerable side to the character in the second act.
Kira Malou is wonderful as Baby, showcasing her character growth and dancing ability brilliantly. As a character Baby can be annoying at moments but Kira does a great job of making her seem real and brings her concerns and values to life in a way that feels genuine without being over the top or too whiney.
As her sister Lisa, Lizzie Ottley is delightful, bringing her comedic timing to the role and being a step behind just at the right time. Carlie Milner is a complete stand out as Penny, providing energy, legginess and such precision in her dancing, she’s an absolute dream to watch and also gives a touching acting performance.
Aside from the dancing this is really a show about the music, which is so iconic. Whilst all the classic tunes are included in the show, I do wish there was more singing as opposed to some of the instrumental or extremely brief moments of song. Some vocal treats however, are provided by Mimi Rodrigues Alves who is fab. Additionally the Kellerman’s band are first-rate as they become part of the on stage action.
Despite its shortcomings, Dirty Dancing is a lovely, feel-good tribute to the film. There’s iconic moments aplenty, sleek lifts, sweet romance, a big dose of nostalgia and all in all it’s a lot of fun. Did I have the time of my life? Not quite. But was it an enjoyable, carefree night out at the theatre? Absolutely!
Dirty Dancing plays at the Dominion Theatre until 16th April 2022
photo credit: Mark Senior
‘A fun revival that doesn’t take itself too seriously’ with a ‘stand-out’ performance from @carliemilner87: @RewriteThisWeb on @DDonStage’s new #WestEnd run at @DominionTheatre. ★★★★ #DirtyDancing #DirtyDancingLondon