Review: Dirty Dancing (Dominion Theatre)

A fun revival served with a large slab of cheese, Dirty Dancing moves the classic 1987 film – of which I am not a fan, at all – onto the massive Dominion stage.

As the Housemans (Dr, Mrs, and daughters Lisa and ‘Baby’) head to Kellerman’s for their summer holiday, romance is in the air for the youngsters.

Dance teacher Johnny (Michael O’Reilly) is a cypher character, best experienced in his dance prowess or stripping off to thrill the overwhelmingly female crowd (who whistled, called out, and lapped up every moment).

Production photo for Dirty Dancing

When Baby (Kira Malou) gets involved in trouble at the camp, we are set for some moves, some tension – and ‘that lift’ (which is very much played for laughs).

Although the romance feels a bit rushed, this show knows its audience, and plays up to it. There may be moments of seriousness, but they feel shoehorned in, and quickly forgotten.

You come for the songs, and the dancing. I loved the mix of recordings and live music, which felt just right for the setting of 1963.

It also allows the live band to be small and intimate, and the live singers to shine, and shine they do. Colin Charles, Danny Colligan, and Lydia Sterling – take a bow!

Production photo for Dirty Dancing

Michael O’Reilly and Kira Malou are a couple both on-stage and off-, which gives them a believable intimacy in their scenes together. Baby’s first attempts at dancing are wildly comedic, but she’s a quick learner.

Charlotte Gooch shines as Penny whenever she steps on stage, while Georgina Castle’s Lisa is memorable in her off-tune Hula moment. Tony Stansfield is amusing as Mr Schumacher.

It doesn’t matter much what critics think – the hormonal rush in this theatre could be felt from Johnny’s first appearance, with squeals and cheers.

Production photo for Dirty Dancing

That’s what you come to Dirty Dancing for. I could mention a jarring scene change or two, but the core audience wouldn’t even notice.

If you want ‘The Time of Your Life’, head to the Dominion until 29 Apr – tickets here or keep an eye out for special deals through the run.

**** (in discussion with my +1 and Johnny the bear)

Image credit: Mark Senior