by Diana Miranda
Track 1: Dirty Dancing – Eleanor Bergstein (writer). Coming to the Dominion Theatre for a limited run and featuring the dialogues, songs, and choreography from the original 1987 film, this is a fan-pleasing show.
Track 2: Do you Love Me – Michael O’Reilly (Johnny) and Kira Malou (Baby). This production nails the bits that earned the audiences’ hearts 35 years ago, from the Love is Strange floor-dance to the oh-so-piercing “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” line. Kellerman’s band and a lively cast make the audience cheer, laugh and hum along to the hits that shaped the story of the bittersweet summer at Kellerman resort where Baby meets dance instructor Johnny.
Track 3: Kellerman’s Anthem – Roberto Comotti (Set design), Valerio Tiberi (Lighting design), Jennifer Irwin (Costume Design) and Armando Vertullo (Sound Design). The overall design is brilliant in an unfussy but spot-on manner, pleasantly evocative of the 1963 mountain resort. All the elements come together particularly well to conjure the lake where Baby learns the iconic dance lift and the fallen tree where Johnny teaches her to gain balance. The costumes add a fantastic visual lift to the dancing, while the beautifully minimalist backdrop and the light design work together to evoke the sparkly summertime days as much as the night-time parties.
Track 4: Hungry Eyes – Federico Bellone (director). The production relies heavily on the sex appeal that Johnny brings to the table, and the audience loves it. However, this tends to water down Johnny’s emotional transformation. A similar thing goes for Baby, who is sketched as amusing and caring, but is not fierce enough to guide the show’s themes of courage and growth. Some scenes are bit rushed, preventing the nuances of the romance evolution. But none of this diminishes the crowd’s engagement one bit. On the contrary, eyes are hungry for Johnny’s confident striding and tight trousers.
Track 5: (I’ve Had) The Time of my Life – Austin Wilks (choreographer). Dancers entice the audience into Kellerman’s world from the beginning with intense kicks, lifts and spins. It takes a while to balance precision and freestyle, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. The choreography ends with a thrilling bang of O’Reilly’s eye-catching energy. His dance partner at the resort, Penny (Carlie Milner), stands out throughout the show with movements that feel like the flow of ocean waves.
Track 6: Love is Strange – Dirty Dancing includes some extra scenes that are, well, extra. They are surely dispensable, but they give an additional layer to some characters, like when Kellerman’s young heir doubts his goals. This helps the production dig up the sense of self-transformation that is otherwise only slightly explored by the protagonists.
Track 7: Some Kind of Wonderful – A blend between light-hearted and sexy, Dirty Dancing is a joyful show, both for those who know and love it and those who want to see what’s it all about.
Dirty Dancing runs through 16 April 2022.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.