Going to see Dirty Dancing at the Orchard Theatre felt like coming home! Dirty Dancing is possibly one of my favorite films (cliche I know) and therefore going to see the show there is a mixture of excitement along with….’Oh god I hope they don’t ruin it.’ However I needn’t have worried.
For those of you that don’t know the story of Dirty Dancing (does such a person exist – if so hang your head in shame!!) it tells of Baby who arrives at Kellermans, an all American holiday park with her sister and parents. Working at Kellermans are a dance act/instructors, Penny & Johnny as well as Robbie a waiter. Baby soon discovers that Penny is in ‘trouble’ (translate to: Is pregnant and wants an abortion) and despite assumptions by Baby’s father than Johnny is the father, the real father Robbie isn’t willing to help Penny. It falls to Baby to try to save the day and not only borrow the cash but to learn Penny’s dance routine so she can fulfill her job at a local hotel. Of course Baby soon falls for Johnny but the path of love never runs smooth (well the movie/show would be dull if it did) as they struggle to be accepted by Baby’s family.
Dirty Dancing ‘ The Classic Story on Stage’ stage sticks very closely to the movie, so much so that I often had to refrain myself from mouthing the lines. When I say they stick closely to the movie you would be forgiven in thinking that they would have to leave some scenes out. For example the iconic scene from the film where Baby and Johnny practise ‘that’ lift in the water can’t be done on stage…can it? Well this proves that it can….all be it in a tongue-in-cheek manner and perfectly accepting of the chuckles from the audience.
Sticking that closely to the film is only going to work if the show lives up to the film and it does. As someone who loves live theatre seeing these dancers perform live just adds that extra wow factor. When Johnny, played by Lewis Griffiths and Penny, played by Carlie Milner, dancer together they are really something to watch. The strongest parts of the show were when you simply got to sit back and watch the likes of Lewis, Carlie and the rest of the ensemble just dance. The cast are constantly working hard on stage and it genuinely feels to the audience that they are dancing every movement within an inch of their lives. The choreography was perfect, harking back to the film enough but cleverly adapted to suit the stage.
The remainder of the cast were equally as strong. Often in reviews of well known shows I will talk about someone having their own interpretation of a character however with the show sitting this closely to the film that would not have worked in this instance. However all of the cast did well in not being seen to be imitating the actors from the film, especially Lewis and Katie Hartland who played Baby whilst remaining true to the character.
Whilst a lot of the music used was the original soundtrack the 2 main vocalists, Daniela Pobega and Michael Kent (who also plays Billy) deliver the songs they are given impressively, making you wonder why they are not used more frequently throughout the show.
The set was also well thought out with many of the scene changes making use of the fact that the set can revolve from outside to inside, keeping the show flowing nicely. The fact that there was continuity with cast going through doors on the set as scene changes happened was a great attention to detail. Another nice moment was the ‘waiters’ in the cast setting up inside the main house each time the scene changed to the dinner service layout.
This is the perfect theatre trip if you love the movie of Dirty Dancing; if you are a dance fan or simply you wan to see what Dirty Dancing is all about. So long as you don’t arrive expecting something highly original then whichever category you fall into you won’t be disappointed. Whichever way you look at this show it is a brilliant example of a polished, energetic and fun performance.