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Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, a CurtainUp London review CurtainUp

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A CurtainUp London London Review
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage

And most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my life the way I feel with you.
---- Baby
Dirty Dancing
Georgina Rich as Frances "Baby" Houseman and Josef Brown as Johnny Castle
(Photo: David Scheinmann)
Fresh from an Australian hit production and booking to March 2008 is this staging of the popular 1980s cult film set in 1963, Dirty Dancing. Of course the whole production takes on an added significance when you realise that Patrick Swayze who made his name playing dance god Johnny Castle in the film is currently appearing in London in the musical Guys and Dolls.

Dirty Dancing has taken off as a musical with little or no help from the critical establishment and is booked by groups of (mostly) women as a jolly girls night out. This is almost the audience participation production of Dirty Dancing so expect lots of squealing and spontaneous applause. "We love the film, we love the cheesy lines" one audience member told me.

I found the opening number where pairs of dancers are shown in silhouette very, very raunchy and I can understand why the fan base has built up so quickly, why people see the show and rebook immediately to see it again. Like the Harry Potter allegiance group of children insisting that the movies should be faithful to the books, Dirty Dancing’s fan base will find every line in the movie included in the show and even a couple of scenes excised from the movie are there on stage.

The story is about Frances "Baby" Houseman’s (Georgina Rich) coming of age. She goes on vacation to an upmarket holiday resort with her parents (Issy van Randwyck and David Rintoul) and her more glamorous elder sister Lisa (Isabella Calthorpe). Baby stumbles behind the scenes to where the holiday resort staff dance exciting sexy nights away and falls for the dance instructor Johnny Castle (Josef Brown). Johnny’s regular dance partner Penny Johnson (Nadia Coote) is pregnant by Robbie (Richard Lawrence) one of the waiters and, in order to make the appointment with the doctor to arrange a termination needs to miss an important dance display, they are under contract for. Baby steps into the breach and is secretly taught to exhibition dance in a very short time. Penny’s abortion puts her life in danger and Baby asks her doctor father (David Rintoul) for help. Baby and Johnny connect off stage as lovers as well as in dance but they face prejudice and opposition.

So what is excellent about this production of Dirty Dancing? The choreography and the sex. There are times when you will not be sure whether it is dance or sex you are watching. The steamy dance scenes in the staff recreation area are low lit in red and black.

However the acting can be too decidedly amplified, oft repeated lines which seem to be delivered mechanically. However, both David Rintoul and Georgina Rich are excellent and convincing actors. Georgina Rich’s novice display dance is brilliantly acted as she struggles to get it right. The singing too is odd, often the first few lines of a popular song being sung live but then replaced with the recorded version. Someone like Issy van Randwyck who made her name singing with the fabulous group Fascinating Aida, only gets a couple of lines of "If You Were the Only Boy in the World".

The sets are many but never imaginative and some are quite shocking like the underwater scene which is a frankly tacky video projection. I did like the car scenes though with the mock up big American cars. But the laws fade when one sees the fabulous dancing. And of course Josef Brown is built like a Greek god, an Adonis, as Baby says to him in bed, "You’re a good teacher!" When Penny takes Baby through the dance steps with Johnny, you could see the guys in the audience thrilling to this fantasy scene, one man and two beautiful leggy girls!

There is some sense of period with "We Shall Overcome" and discussions about going on the Freedom marches in Mississippi. You will find plenty to laugh at too, particularly if you have a wicked sense of humour. Johnny’s enviable dilemma won’t get him much sympathy, "You come from the streets and suddenly these women are throwing themselves at you!" I particularly liked David Rintoul being given a wig which was a witty, exact copy of Patrick Swayze’s hairstyle.

Oh and who won’t be going to see it? Why, Patrick Swayze has said he won’t. To quote from a London Evening Standard article by Tom Teodorczuk, Swayze said: "I haven't seen the Dirty Dancing show and I'm not going to. They wanted me to get involved but there's no way I'm filling a seat in that theatre. Why would I want to see something that rips out the heart and soul of the film and is just being done to make money?" Isn’t money what drives most musical theatre, let alone the movie business?

Written by Eleanor Bergstein
Directed by James Powell

Starring: David Rintoul, Georgina Rich, Josef Brown
With: Issy van Randwyck, Rae Baker, Billy Boyle, Isabella Calthorpe, Nadia Coote, Richard Dempsey, Jason Griffiths, Richard Lawrence, Richard Lloyd King, Ben Mingay, Brian Saccante, Ursula Smith, Nigel Williams, Shonagh Daly, Chris Holland, Lucy Banfield, Ian Banham, Sarah Bowden, Dan Burton, Arielle Campbell, David Erik, Shimi Goodman, Helen Harper, Victoria Hinde, Melissa Keyes, Paul Kitson, Tee Jaye, Richard Leeson, Chris andrew Mellon, Tom Mellor, Will Peaco, Tanya Perera, Emma Woods.
Choreographer: Kate Champion
Set Design: Stephen Brimson Lewis
Costume Design: Jennifer Irwin
Lighting: Tim Mitchell
Sound: Bobby Aitken
Music Supervisor: Conrad Helfrich
Ballroom and Latin Choreographer: Craig Wilson
Video and Projection Design: Jon Driscoll
Musical Director: Chris Newton
Running time: Two hours forty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 400 0805
Booking to March 2008
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 22nd November 2006 performance at the Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, London WC2 (Tube: Charing Cross)

Musical Numbers
Act One
  • "This Magic Moment"
  • "Little Darlin’"
  • "Merengue"
  • "The Time Of My Life"
  • "You Do Something To Me"
  • "You’re The Cream In My Coffee"
  • "There Will Never Be Another You"
  • "Trot The Fox"
  • "Johnny’s Mambo"
  • "Maybe"
  • "Do You Love Me"
  • "Love Man"
  • "Honey Love"
  • "Infectious Cha Cha Cha"
  • "Original Waltz"
  • "Penny’s Waltz"
  • "Viva La Quinte Brigada"
  • "This Land Is Our Land"
  • "We Shall Overcome"
  • "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow"
  • "De Todo Un Poco"
  • "Wipe Out"
  • "Hungry Eyes"
  • "Overload"
  • "Hey! Baby"
  • "The Time Of My Life"
  • "An Original Tango"
  • "Rico Vacilon"
  • "De Todo Un Poco"
  • "Maybe"
  • "Love’s Melody"
  • "These Arms Of Mine"
  • "Cry To Me"
Act Two
  • "Dawn Interlude"
  • "A Fool In Love"
  • "Besame Mucho"
  • "Blow The Man Down"
  • "Summer Of Our Samba"
  • "Save The Last Dance"
  • "If You Were The Only Girl In The World"
  • "Mama Said"
  • "Magic Hour Serenade"
  • "Duke of Earl"
  • "Love Is Strange"
  • "You Don’t Own Me"
  • "Nunca"
  • "Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me"
  • "The Hula Song"
  • "Oh! Better Far To Live And Die"
  • "Yes!"
  • "In The Still Of The Night"
  • "Summertime Incidental"
  • "Nocturnando"
  • "Someone Like You"
  • "She’s Like The Wind"
  • "Kellerman’s Anthem"
  • "The Time Of My Life"
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©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
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