Dirty Dancing Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester
The forbidden love between Baby (Katie Eccles) and resort dance instructor, Johnny (Lewis Griffiths) has been parodied for the stage in dramatic fashion. In honour of the 80s classic, producers Karl Sydow and Paul Elliott’s have painstakingly mirrored iconic scenes from the film to refashion this summer smash.
Federico Bellone’s inventive direction is one of the highlights of this production, using ideas that continually take you out of the traditional, static stage setting to offer a fresh reimagining. Entwining the set with a labyrinth of rooms, hidden reveals and an impressive use of clear screens allows images of winding roads and water to be projected onto the stage alongside the actors. The cast include a collection of captivating dancers and impressive singers who barely stop for breath. With top talents Eccles and Griffiths appearing as professionally trained dancers from the start, despite longwinded montages to convince the audience otherwise.
Your restless summer may be turned around by Griffiths hip control and on point Swayze impersonation. With a technique so smooth he was forced to rush through lines before the audience’s howls drowned out his dialogue, Dirty Dancing Live has the same powerful connection to fans as the original. The show features classic songs, Hungry Eyes, Do You Love Me? and Time Of My Life that had the audiences singing along to the action. But unlike a live Karaoke night, the combination of Griffith with his bum out and audience participation turned this production into a Chippendale show where the heckling overcame the actor’s performances.
It was definitely ladies’ night at the Catskills resort, making it easy to forget the back-street abortion storyline that accompanies this surprisingly stark tale of Baby’s family vacation. If you thought Grease had a few questionable plot points, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Dirty Dancing’s main storyline is no surprise to anyone, but this production clumsily includes a secondary plot where a young, white Civil Rights activist is urged not to walk in protest because he may get hurt. As this argument was coming from a particularly animated black lounge singer it seemed like an extremely obnoxious and unnecessary add-on. Especially when the characters of saxophonist, Baby’s sister and Baby’s parents were all able to get more stage time than this tacked on narrative.
The saviours of this production were Sophia McKay and Michael Kent whose singing alongside the live band helped take the burden off the lack of sustainable plot. The live band and terrifically talented dancers kept the mood of the production high and light-hearted, but Dirty Dancing relies heavily on fangirls turning out to support it based on their love for the original film. Audiences are sure to enjoy the variety show of music and dancing but don’t expect anything deeper from the 80s remake.