Review: Dirty Dancing, The Playhouse

A SIMPLE and straightforward opening – a dansette record player lit by a spotlight. Yet within minutes there’s video projection, fast costume changes, sensual dancing and youthful exuberance.

* * * * *

And from there, it just gets bigger and better.

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Rather than a watered-down version of the story from the film Dirty Dancing, what we have is a live replication. To achieve this remarkable feat – word for word and move for move – involves a revolving stage, an ingenious set and some nifty lighting.

The result is a jaw-dropping feast for the eyes.

Everything from the fallen tree trunk scene to the attempted lift in the lake is reproduced perfectly, yet with a wonderfully light humorous touch. If you want to know how they do it – go see the show.

Although there are over 40 musical numbers, this is no musical. It’s all about dance; and the dancing is some of the best you’re likely to see. Yet there is plenty room for laughter, as when Johnny Castle (Paul-Michael Jones) is teaching Baby (Jill Winternitz) the dance moves to Eric Carmen’s song Hungry Eyes.

Of course, following Patrick Swayze to play the part of Johnny Castle was never going to be easy; that’s a mighty big pair of stacked heels to fill. But Jones is more than up to the task – and then some.

One of the strengths of faithfully reproducing the film is that the audience know what’s coming, and happily demonstrate their eager anticipation of each moment. Hence the reason they go wild when Johnny marches through the audience, slings his kitbag onto the stage and declares “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”.

The same is true of the famous “lift” scene. Hard enough to perform on film with the benefits of edits and re-shoots, the sight of Jones holding Winternitz aloft before their very eyes, was enough to drive the audience into a frenzy.

A remarkable show; one of the best in a long time. And one that left the audience buzzing.

Ladies, if the man in your life is struggling to pick the perfect Christmas present, try dropping a heavy hint for some tickets. If you liked the film, you’re going to love this.

Run ends January 12.