New Victoria Theatre, Woking – until 4 September 2017
The best way to start this review is probably to say that I’ve only seen the Dirty Dancing film once. Whilst that’s probably a movie crime I think it’s pretty good because I don’t have much to compare the show with.
Based on the 1987 movie, there is a large and eager fan base ready to lap up a live-action, energetic romance between the lower class dance instructor, Johnny Castle and daddy’s girl teen, Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman. There have been a number of reincarnations of the show which always garner solid box office sales but sadly I feel this is purely because of the cult popularity as opposed to the quality of production.
There’s nothing I can precisely pinpoint that’s bad about this production but I just feel that it doesn’t transfer particularly well to stage. Gillian Bruce‘s choreography is wonderful but the sudden changes and bitty moments which work well on screen just don’t transfer on stage.
Katie Eccles is suitably sweet but feisty as Baby and seeing her transition and personal growth on stage was lovely. Lewis Griffiths is sexy and brooding as Johnny; his chemistry with Katie is great and they work together wonderfully to make the story flow.
I would describe this production as more of a play with music than a musical which was a bit of a let down to me. Sophia MacKay and Michael Kent lead the very few pieces that are actually sung with ease and style. Whilst watching it felt that there are too many little things added in that are not fully explored. Carlie Milner plays the character of Peggy brilliantly and her dancing is sublime but her whole storyline feels a little rushed and we don’t have time to fully connect with her- a problem I felt a few times.
The set changes are smooth and effortless with clever effects such as the water scene and I loved the lighting, especially when the morning light is supposed to be coming through the blinds.
The final scene is by far the stand out with the iconic lift being pulled of perfectly. Whilst it isn’t my ideal production, I love seeing the audience reactions and it really is lovely seeing huge fans of the film smile and swoon each time an iconic moment happens or line is spoken. I personally wouldn’t race back to the show but for a fun, light-hearted and sexy night out it’s certainly a lot of fun and if I could kick my leg that high I would love to spend my nights dancing away!
Dirty Dancing runs at the New Victoria theatre until 9th September before continuing on its tour.