Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage
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?
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.