Review: Dirty Dancing

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WHY do we love Dirty Dancing so much? It certainly can’t be for the story, there’s no Patrick Swayze in the stage adaptation, and it’s not exactly a sing-along musical, either.

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The Playhouse

No. It’s because it tells the simple, light-hearted tale of a young, girl-next-door who manages to win the heart of a tall, dark handsome bloke. One who can swivel his hips and flex his muscles to heart-fluttering effect.

Despite the lack of singing and story, however, Eleanor Bergstein’s Sixties-set piece is a simple, undemanding slice of cheese. The mambo/rock ‘n’ roll dancing is easy on the eye, there’s a fair slab of humour, and in Roseanna Frascona’s Baby, a girl everyone in the audience wishes they could be.

The 125-minute long show also benefits from a superbly groovy live-band, sat high above the stage, and a giant LED screen that gives the impression our heroes are gallivanting in a corn-field or practising their dance moves on a riverbank.

Set during the rising of the Civil Rights movement, the production doesn’t preach at you, either. Here, the dancing styles give a stronger indication of the times the characters are living in.

Frascona looks eerily similar to the 1987 blockbuster movie’s Jennifer Grey’s pre-plastic-surgery self. A dainty soul full of life and naivety, when Baby finally beds her hunk, Johnny Castle, it allows the audience a chance to put down their wine-glasses and practice their wolf-whistles.

But let’s be honest. The dancing between Castle (Gareth Bailey) and Penny Johnson (played by trained ballerina Claire Rogers) is what catches the eye the most. The two have a genuine chemistry and dancing ability that Baby can never match.

After a slow start, the second half is where things truly come alive. Up with the momentum, up with the songs, and in some cases, up on your feet when I’ve Had The Time Of My Life comes rolling around. As some of the ushers in the Playhouse discovered, nobody, absolutely nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Run ends 14 March