Tag Archives: Dirty Dancing

REVIEW: Dirty Dancing – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Based on the much-adored 1987 movie, the 2006 musical theatre version of Dirty Dancing was the fastest-selling show in West End history, with advanced sales of a staggering £15 million. And its popularity shows no sign of abating, despite an atrocious 2017 TV movie remake.

This revamped version (new sets and songs from the movie not originally in the stage musical) from director Federico Bellone, choreographer Gillian Bruce and designer Roberto Cometti, is currently playing to packed houses up and down the UK.

Almost entirely lifted scene for scene from the movie: It’s 1963, Camp Kellerman, an upscale Catskill resort. On the surface, it’s playing Simon Says, horseshoe tossing, tennis lessons and singing around the campfire. Behind the scenes though, the staff are having a rather raunchier time. When shy, middle-class teen Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman stumbles on this parallel world and charismatic bad boy Johnny Castle, a whole new world opens for her.

While themes of racism (there’s a rendition of We Shall Overcome, mentions of Freedom Riders, and a snippet of Dr Martin Luther King’s 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech), abortion and classism are touched upon, they are delivered with a great big dose of sugary schmaltz. The overwhelming feeling is celebratory, it certainly honours the memory of the movie and those oh so quotable lines and pounding early 60s hits are all here.

Roberto Cometti’s set is certainly head and shoulders above recent tours, which were laden with back projections, as well as being visually pleasing it is inventive, and the scenes change with an admirable fluidity. It laudably evokes the feeling of a 1960s country retreat.

Lewis Griffiths is charismatic and supremely polished as the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Johnny, and there’s a tangible chemistry between Katie Eccles’ Baby and himself. Carly Milner provides strong support as Penny.

Federico Bellone has certainly breathed new life into the old dog and returns it to the rawer movie original. The supporting cast of players are grittier and sexier than before and the set and lighting design, especially in key scenes, now fully enhances the action. The only gripe would be the unevenness of the two acts, the first rattles at breakneck speed through the plot and the second gets to the point where it outstays its welcome. That said, this was never intended to break new ground. Shakespeare, it ain’t. Instead it’s good, old-fashioned, escapist fun and if the ecstatic reaction of the audience is anything to go by, Dirty Dancing will continue to run and run.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub here


REVIEW: Dirty Dancing The Classic Story On Stage – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews here

Dirty Dancing was never going to be anything other than a rip-roaring, raucous, raise the roof hit with a Glasgow audience notorious for its enthusiasm for a great night out; returning as it is to the city for yet another month-long run at the King’s Theatre.

It hardly seems necessary to outline the story, faithfully following as it does the much-beloved 1987 movie’s script (albeit with a few new additions), but for those who have been living under a rock for the last quarter of a century, it goes something like this; It’s 1963 and American is at the dawn of a new era. Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and her wealthy family are on their summer vacation at Kellerman’s but the wholesome Houseman’s world is about to be turned upside down when Baby meets working class dance instructor Johnny Castle and the rest of the staff at the high-class holiday resort. Baby experiences a slice of life that she’s never seen before and what follows is a tale of passion, pain and prejudice all played out to a backdrop of some of the most famous tunes of the era.

First and foremost a dancer’s musical, the top-notch casting doesn’t disappoint, obviously chosen for their sublime skills, both Gareth Bailey (Johnny) and Claire Rogers (Penny) as well as the ensemble cast, are stunningly talented and the ease and grace with which they execute Kate Champion’s intricate and demanding choreography is mesmerising. Roseanna Frascona’s Baby is a competent and likeable Baby who, on stage, looks like Jennifer Grey in the days when she looked like Jennifer Grey. Also worthy of mention is Wayne Smith’s beautiful, hairs on the back of you neck-raising rendition of ‘In the Still of the Night’.

In this city, with their love for this show, it is the audience who play as big a part as anyone onstage: cheering and booing and hissing and whistling and singing their way through a script and songs they know off by heart and the warmth with which this cast and this show is welcomed is a joy to watch. Sondheim it isn’t, but it never claims to be, it’s a feelgood, escapist piece of fluff. It will certainly send you home with a smile on your face and a spring in your step and it might just help you forget your troubles for a few happy hours. What more could you want from a show.

Runs until 20th September


REVIEW: Dirty Dancing The Musical First National Tour – King’s Theatre Glasgow 22nd October 2011

“It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing.”

“On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, ‘Baby’ shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles upon the staff quarters when an all-night dance party is in full swing. Mesmerised by the raunchy dances move and the pounding rhythms, ‘Baby’ can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor.”

“Baby’s life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences.”

Well… have I had the time of my life?…This was one of the shows that I bypassed when it was running in London. I had also heard from friends that it wasn’t worth West End prices, so when it embarked on its first tour I thought I’d chance the admission price – though this is pretty steeply priced (£52.50) compared to most touring productions.

In adapting a movie with a myriad amount of scene changes the designers cleverly overcame the obvious hurdles this would cause in a theatre. A lot of projections were used as well as the sets – now I’m not normally a big fan of projected scenery but this was particularly effective. Except in the famous “river scene” where the audience just hooted with laughter at the effect. (A slightly more sober audience might have taken it all a bit more seriously.)

It’s probably the only musical I’ve seen where none of the principles sing – it is Dirty Dancing after all – but it was none the less enjoyable for that.

Paul-Michael Jones and Penny Gooch (above) were both fantastically talented dancers as were most of the ensemble except Helen Kurup as Kathy, though I’m sure she was hired as a singer her lack of dancing skills just looked all the more awkward when playing beside such a gifted cast of dancers. This isn’t your traditional musical but if you enjoy it as a piece of entertainment it’s pretty damn good.