The stage show of Dirty Dancing is a strange mix between movie and theatre that never seems to quite work. On the one hand it felt like a cheesy movie knock-off and on the other it felt like a poorly executed show.
The pace moves far too fast with most scenes feeling like they only last a couple of minutes which makes them seem almost pointless. This is an after effect of it being a movie adaption, with a story needing to be told which wasn’t originally planned for the confines of the theatre. Effects and sets that are meant to wow are lost when they come in such quick succession and one is unable to fully take them in. This is a show that is trying to hard to please and entertain that it often falls short of rather than achieving these aims. The whole show would work a lot better if these effects were cut down and utilised properly, thus allowing it to become a show in its own right rather than a movie attempting to be a show.
One of my favourite things about the movie is the music but again the stage show falls into a grey area on this by choosing to have some sung live where as for others they simply play the recorded version of the original. If all were to be live I feel that it would be possible to achieve something along the lines of Mamma Mia or Jersey Boys which pay homage to the music in a new and original way. Instead the use of both makes it once again feel like its attempting to be the movie instead of coming into its own as a show. The vocals when used were good and I don’t understand why they weren’t used more often, it would have really helped the show out and would also have probably helped with the pace issue.
The acting on the whole was good; I saw the alternate Johnny, Karl James Wilson, when I went as well as Katie Hartland as Baby. Both performed well and their chemistry on stage was good, I felt they did well portraying the characters in their own right, bringing something slightly new and different to the roles and not being complete Patrick Swayze and Jenifer Grey knock-offs. The stand out person for me though was Carlie Milner as Penny (who incidentally is also my favourite character in the movie), she acted and danced who way through the role practically perfectly and gave a very good portrayal of the character.
The dancing was undoubtedly the best thing about the show, which I guess comes as no surprise. I really enjoyed watching the process of Baby learning to dance, which I feel was handled well with comedy but the constant set changes throughout did make it seem like a bit of a blur. The ‘dirty dancing’ scenes were fantastic and they really captured the atmosphere and feel from the movies, transferring it well onto the stage. The last dance number of course was a showstopper, it was amazing to see the lift live and was probably my favourite thing about the show, really capturing the heart of the original movie and story on stage.
I did enjoy my time watching Dirty Dancing, even if it was my second (my first being when it was first on the West End a few years ago) but this production failed to capture the magic I felt first time around. The show finds it self in a lot of grey areas between movie and theatre production, play and musical, without ever really finding its own which is frustrating to watch at times. But it is still a lot of fun and does provided an enjoyable night out, making it a must for any fan of the film.
Dirty Dancing is playing until the 31st December at the Phoenix Theatre, tickets available here: http://dirtydancingontour.com/tickets-tour
Photo at top does not belong to me credit goes to ‘Dirty Dancing on Tour’ (http://dirtydancingontour.com/sights-sounds)