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No one puts this show in the corner!
Dirty Dancing (Musical)
Member Name: kingfisher111
Dirty Dancing (Musical)
Date: 26/07/09, updated on 21/08/11 (171 review reads)
Advantages: great music and dancing
Disadvantages: not as good as the film
I have to confess to being a big fan of musical theatre and I absolutely adore the film Dirty Dancing, which is why when I was offered a ticket for the live production at the Aldwych Theatre I jumped at the chance. I was really looking forward to seeing how one of my best loved films had been transferred to the stage - and although in many ways it is a magical performance, I honestly don't think that it is anywhere close to being as good as the film!
For anyone who does not know the story, Dirty Dancing is set in the early sixties and takes place at Kellermann's - an American holiday camp with lots going on. Frances 'Baby' Houseman, her sister Lisa and their parents arrive for their holiday and are soon right in the thick of things. There are different entertainment events at every hour of the day headed up by Johnny Castle and his dance team. There are rules however, about staff mixing with guests when not on duty, but Baby is soon attracted to the exciting dancing that she sees taking place in the staff quarters. Matters are complicated when Johnny's dance partner Penny reveals that she is pregnant, which obviously in the early sixties is a big problem. Whilst she prepares for an abortion, Baby prepares to take her place as Johnny's partner - a relationship that becomes very up close and personal too. As details of their relationship and her Baby's part in Penny's abortion come to light, her previously close relationship with her father is sorely tested. There are lots of other supporting storylines going on at the same time.
It's a lovely story and one that I have enjoyed many times when watching the DVD but I did wonder how well it would transfer to the stage. In many ways it does fare well but I suspect that my love of the film slightly marred my enjoyment of the stage performance.
Most of the acting is very good and particularly the performances of Leanne Rowe (Baby) and Martin Harvey (Johnny) were excellent although it did seem to take a while before the chemistry between them really kicked in. Also, it was quite uncanny just how much Leanne looked like the Baby in the film! I thought that most of the cast did very well although there were a couple of understudies who appeared a bit wooden. There are no big names in the cast but that never really bothers me and it is definitely not a problem here.
The songs in Dirty Dancing are absolutely magical. Anyone who knows the film will know such classics such as 'Time of My Life' and 'She's Like the Wind'. There was an excellent band and some good singing although this is not like your usual musical with cast members bursting into song at various times. Neither lead sang at all, and I somehow felt that it was a shame that in this stage adaptation that there was not more live singing. The 'dirty dancing' was really excellent though!
The stage at the Aldwych Theatre is not vast so it was always bound to be a challenge as to how it would all fit on the stage. The main elements of the staging were a rotating stage and a cinematic backdrop. Sometimes these were used quite cleverly but I also felt that both were slightly overused. I think that the problem was that the writer, Eleanor Bergstein, had tried to stay too close to the film. Films manage to jump between different scenes at a fair pace but it all looks seamless dues to careful editing. This was managed on stage by the stage rotating many many times, doors appearing out of the floor and so on. There were times when it just felt so busy and the revolving stage was really starting to do my head in!
The screen was also a little overused but at times it was also used very cleverly. I really liked the way, when Johnny and Baby were practicing a dance lift in a lake they appeared behind the screen and the effect of them actually being in water was excellent. Overall, I felt the effect would have been better had there not been the necessity for so many scene changes.
There were also moments when things all felt a little slow, again I felt due to too many shifts of scene. We would just see characters enter into about two or three lines of dialogue before the stage went 'walkabout' again. These short exchanges just don't seem to work so well on the stage.
However, for all my criticisms, this is a good show and is worth seeing, especially for the last twenty minutes that were so vibrant and lively and had all of the audience clapping along with the dancing. Also a massive cheer went up when Johnny reappeared towards the end and delivered the immortal line:
'Nobody puts Baby in a corner!'
You don't get that sort of group enjoyment when you just watch the film!
Overall then, it's a fun and enjoyable show, but if you are a huge fan of the film, be prepared to go with an open mind and see what you think! I did really enjoy it but having said that though, I don't think I'll want to go and see it again - I will just stick with watching the DVD!
Summary: A fun show
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