‘Dirty Dancing’ (Edinburgh Festival Theatre) | Review By Stacey Brown

Dirty Dancing Review The iconic 1980s classic Dirty Dancing has been adapted for the stage, and it’s just as fun and sexy as you hoped it would be. The story follows Frances “Baby” Houseman, a young woman on holiday with her family at Kellerman’s resort. This is where she meets Johnny Castle, a dreamy, bad boy dance instructor. After Johnny’s dancing partner falls pregnant, it’s up to Baby to fill in for a performance. During their rehearsals Johnny and Baby fall in love, much to the dismay of Baby’s father. The show is packed with all your favourite music, scenes and dances from the original film and will make you nostalgic and warm.

The performance doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Director Russ Spencer knows the target audience are people who love the movie and who want to have fun! The performance could have easily been a more serious retelling with more drama, but what would be the fun in that? I loved the tongue in cheek atmosphere of “we know you’re here to watch your favourite story and have a sing and dance”. This was clear when the iconic line “no one puts baby in the corner” had audience members screaming. On the other hand, there was some more time period contextual dialogue in the performance compared to the film. There was more emphasis on the civil rights movement at the time in America, with characters sitting round a bonfire listening to Martin Luther King’s speech. This was quite refreshing as it added depth to the story and brought the story into the real world.

Kira Malou as Baby, brought a fresher take to the character. Her emphasis on Baby’s youthfulness and silliness really brought the character to life. Malou has great comedic timing and I found this exaggerated character to be more relatable to the audience than her movie counterpart. Michael O’Reilly as Johnny Castle brings all the suave and sexiness we all remember from Patrick Swayze’s iconic role. However he is not scared to show his silly side either. I particularly loved the scene at the lake where they practice lifts. I did wonder how they would portray this on stage, but having them behind a screen pretending to swim was hilarious. O’Reilly’s dancing is absolutely mesmerising and it is clear that he has a great talent for dancing. The two have amazing chemistry on stage! They were believable and didn’t feel cheesy or their relationship rushed. The supporting cast and ensemble were also great. I preferred having only a few characters sing throughout the performance rather than have big budget show tunes dropped continuously, taking away from the story. Samuel Bailey and Amber Edwards rendition of Time of My Life was fantastic and had everyone dancing and singing along. And of course Colin Charles as Tito had the crowd hyped. My only criticism is there were a few instances where the cast would freeze or act in slow motion. I found this to be a little choppy and take away from the pace of the show.

The performance used a lot of prerecorded music, I imagine this was to stay true to the movie with classics such as Hungry Eyes. However, throughout the performance Kellerman’s band (consisting of a saxaphone, guitar and trumpet) would play interludes and dance music live on stage. I love live music at the theatre, especially if the musicians are incorporated into the performance. You felt like you were at Kellerman’s hotel, hearing the band play as you sat at a table; the band immersed you into the setting. The musicians were very talented and I would have liked to have seen more of them.

The choreography in the play was absolutely incredible! Resident choreographer Austin Wilks and assistant choreographer Charlie Milner created sexy and beautiful sequences that had you mesmerised. As mentioned before, the play was very fun and silly, but when the dancers were being thrown you were hypnotised. They are an extremely talented cast! I also loved how the choreographer’s stuck to the original, iconic dance we all know. It felt really lovely to see those moments on stage instead of behind a screen, and it was a special and ephemeral moment to be apart of the audience when the iconic lift happened.

‘Dirty Dancing’ is sexy, silly and spectacular. The music and dancing immerse you into the story you know and love. It’s a fun night out and has you leaving the theatre singing and dancing.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dirty Dancing is running at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh until the 13th of November. https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/dirty-dancing-2021

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