Two things immediately come to mind as Dirty Dancing marked its 7,000th performance since the Aldwych Theatre run that began in 2006. Firstly, however impressive the number of previous performances there might have been (The Mousetrap has now had over 26,000), it’s always somebody’s very first time seeing this particular theatrical experience. Secondly, with 6,999 prior performances to draw on, one would have thought things would be slick and polished by now. The good news is that it is, and this show, far from being worn out, is as vibrant and – well, dirty – as ever.
In fact, it is fresher than ever: I recall the days when people went to Dirty Dancing in the West End and came away rather disappointed, particularly given the amount of money they had spent on tickets.
Some people simply thought the show was okay, but not spectacular. Others were miffed that the opportunity had not been taken to alter the narrative, dialogue and order of musical numbers, so they felt that they could have stayed at home and watched the motion picture starring the late Patrick Swayze. On reflection, the show, as presented here, is fine without significant adaptation: for example, Dirty Dancing wouldn’t be Dirty Dancing if Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths) said anything other than, “Nobody puts baby in a corner” just before the closing musical number.
It’s not often that a touring production, especially of something as familiar as Dirty Dancing, is found to be more refreshing and joyous than its previous West End incarnation. I didn’t catch the original London run but finally got around to seeing it in 2013 at the Piccadilly Theatre. This UK touring production is certainly an improvement on my first exposure to this show, and I enjoyed it all the more second time around. The lake scene (you know the one), now as then, provokes much laughter from the audience because of how it’s done, but this added to the entertainment value.
The set seems to be as flexible as the dancing, spinning around quite impressively (there are several revolves), and leaving surprisingly little to the imagination in terms of time and place. The scene changes are very rapid, and the show maintains a relentlessly steady momentum throughout. Now, Lewis Griffiths certainly has a star quality about him, and a particularly revealing moment in the second half will remain etched in the audience’s memory for some time. Griffiths’ stage presence is phenomenal, and befitting of his character, and his dancing is nothing short of flawless.
Of the supporting roles, Daniela Pobega impressed as Elizabeth, as did Michael Kent’s Billy Kostecki. Both have incredible singing voices, well showcased here. There aren’t any discernible weak links in this cast, really – a testament that celebrity casting is not a necessary pre-requisite for a show to have a successful run. The sound levels are perfectly balanced between musicians and actors, and while the sounds of the 1960s may not be palatable for everyone, this feel-good musical is an utter delight. Although I wasn’t really expecting to, I had the time of my life. (There. I said it. I went there.) Baby (Kate Hartland) isn’t the only one to get a lift out of this pulsating and spirited production. Here’s to another 7,000 shows.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Producers Karl Sydow and Paul Elliott are delighted to announce that the new UK production of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, will mambo back onto the road after a sensational Christmas season in the West End followed by international dates in Bremen and Cannes. The show opens in Southend on 11 January and tours the UK and Ireland until the autumn of 2017.
Starring Lewis Griffiths as ‘Johnny Castle’, Katie Hartland as ‘Baby Houseman’ and Carlie Milner as ‘Penny Johnson’, the UK tour has taken over £10million pounds since it hit the road last August and, due to overwhelming demand for tickets around the country, even more dates have been added, including return visits to Manchester, Blackpool, Liverpool, Woking and Sunderland.
The classic story of Baby and Johnny, featuring the hit songs ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ and the heart stopping ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, returns to the UK, following two blockbuster West End runs, two hit UK tours, and various international productions.
Full of passion and romance, heart-pounding music and sensationally sexy dancing, this record-breaking all new concept of the show is directed by Federico Bellone, choreographed by Gillian Bruce with set design re-imagined by top Italian designer Roberto Comotti. It premiered in Milan in July 2015, subsequently packing out the 15,000 seat Roman Arena in Verona, and then played a season in Rome.