I saw Dirty Dancing in London a couple of years ago, so was keen to find out how a smaller venue would handle the production last night at Liverpool Empire Theatre.
Dirty Dancing tells the story of daddy’s girl Baby Houseman, who when vacationing with her family at Kellerman’s resort meets and becomes infatuated by Johnny Castle- the resident dance instructor. When Penny, Johnny’s dance partner, decides to get an illegal abortion after falling pregnant by one of the resort’s waiters, Robbie, Baby fills in for her on one of her regular shows and the unlikely pair fall deeper for one another.
With a script that is almost identical to the movie, you will not be disappointed if you are a hard core fan of the original film. The musical tries its hardest to stay true to the original scenes in the movie too, so you will find yourself comparing like for like. Every scene pays homage to the film in a successful transition from screen to stage.
The casting is consequently very important and the actors were an excellent match, so much so that at a distance they looked like the originals. Roseanna Frascona was petite and clumsy- just like Jennifer Grey's portrayal of Baby and Gareth Bailey was every bit as sweaty and delicious as Patrick Swayze's character Johnny.
Frascona appeared to deliver the most iconic lines in the film with authenticity, so it didn't feel like you had just switched on the DVD.
Claire Rogers was stunning as Penny Johnson and had great on-stage chemistry with Gareth Bailey making their back story of a longstanding friendship and dance partners very believable.
Alexander Wolfe was more animated than in the movie as Neil Kellerman but provided a lot of the slapstick comedy along with Jessie Lou-Yates (Lisa Houseman) whose performance of a chorus in the final Kellerman's Anthem was as excruciating as it was hilarious.
The set was understated, the scene changes were seamless and the famous lift scene in the lake was expertly handled without a drop of water in sight- just the clever use of lighting and projection.
The more adult scenes in the film were delicately handled for younger audiences and the dance scenes combined with the more catchy songs such as 'Hungry Eyes' and 'I've had the time of my life' gave me goose-bumps. You just wanted to get on the stage and bust a move with everyone- which is why they will always be the perfect floor fillers in clubs.
Dirty Dancing is a timeless story, despite being set in the 1960s and the movie dating back to 1987- it continues to draw the crowds. It has one of the most recognisable soundtracks in film and theatre and so the audience were not ashamed to join in with the songs (and the script!).
The theatre was filled with mostly women who, after a few wines- were a highly excited crowd indeed, especially when Johnny was on stage. It was a delight to be part of the atmosphere in the stalls as the crowd eagerly hoped that the cast and crew would be kind to one of their most beloved movies. In the end, the audience gave the cast a standing ovation on opening night- so clearly they did the original story justice. I believe this to be the case- so if this is one of your firm favourites in your movie collection then you absolutely need to see this production!