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Review: Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing. Emily Holt and Paul-Michael Jones

Dirty Dancing. Emily Holt and Paul-Michael Jones

 

WHAT is still regarded as an iconic movie has been turned into a theatrical winner and, for the next three weeks, Milton Keynes Theatre will be packed with enthusiastic audiences wanting to see more Dirty Dancing.

It’s the summer of 1963 and, as the introduction says, it’s before President Kennedy was shot and before the Beatles came. The location is the Catskill Mountains in the United States and the venue, the Kellerman¹s Holiday Resort, it’s an up-market American cross between Centre Parcs and Butlin’s but with lovely views... and a golf course!

It tells the story of Frances ŒBaby¹ Houseman and her transformation from being her daddy¹s little girl to the woman of the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle¹s desires.

First I must confess that I’ve never seen the film. However I understand from those who have that the film’s leading roles of ‘Baby’ and Johnny which were played back in 1987 on the silver screen by Jennifer Gray and the late Patrick Swayze are brilliantly recreated by Emily Holt and Paul-Michael Jones in what is an action-packed dance extravaganza.

Having played to enthusiastic West End audiences since it debuted at the Aldwych Theatre in October 2006 after being adapted for the New York stage two years earlier, Dirty Dancing is now set for a nationwide tour and that has already been extended into 2013.

The rich Houseman family arrived at the plus resort owned by Max Kellerman (Jack McKenzie) where his annoying son Neil (Joe Evans) takes a real shine to Baby in the ballroom. Of course he’s a real pain, but Baby is too polite to tell him to get lost.

Played to a soundtrack of 1960s hits it’s part live orchestra (which sits half hidden ‘above’ the stage) and part original recordings the dancing is often frantic but has been beautifully choreographed by Kate Champion, the stage itself full of colourful costumes with a superb cast led by Holt and Jones.

With Baby able to tell her father Dr Jake Houseman (Lynden Edwards) everything, she finds herself getting mixed up in all sorts of situations that she’d rather not reveal.

Then when her sister Lisa (Emilia Williams) becomes the target of Harvard or Yale-educated waiter, and all round Casenova, Robbie Gould (Gareth Bailey), Baby warns him off and then learns that he has already got the beautiful Penny Johnson pregnant.

Baby asks her father for $250 but fails to tell him that it’s for Penny’s abortion. After her ‘op’, Penny falls desperately ill and Dr Jake attends to her then learns the truth about the borrowed money and immediately drops his favourite daughter and instead takes more interest in the dopey Lisa.

As Baby gets herself more involved with Johnny who himself is the target of most the women (both single and married) at the holiday resort there’s a talent contest for dance and singing (just like Butlin’s!) and with Johnny paid to give private lessons and dance with all and sundry, he’s then accused of stealing and leaves the resort in shame.

Baby confesses that it couldn’t have been him as she spent the night with him. Then naturally he’s returns just in time for the finale where he and Baby perform the iconic dance lift sequence which brings screams of delight from the audience who are by now are mostly on their feet as Billy Kostecki (Thomas Aldridge) and fellow dancer Elizabeth (Aimie Atkinson) stand on opposite sides of the stage singing shows best known hit, I’ve Had The Time Of My Life.

The two leads were exceptional as was that of the beautiful ‘pregnant’

Penny. A fabulous dancer it was hard to take your eyes off her long and shapely legs! overall it’s a tight show, the dance sequences brilliantly performed to almost 50 different well known tunes which are either played or sung.

And finally, special mention of one of the cleverest set designs and stunning video projections (Stephen Brimson Lewis) that I’ve ever, together with some stunning lighting (Tim Mitchell), it’s a show that will undoubtely leave your eyes hungry for more.

Dirty Dancing is set to run in Milton Keynes until Saturday, May 26 and at almost four weeks, is said to be the theatre’s longest ever single production. Tickets are available from the Box Office at 0844 871 7652 or online at www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

 

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