Dirty Dancing @ The Mayflower, Southampton

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Dirty Dancing is something of a phenomenon, a cheap and poorly made movie that somehow set the world alight. It was inevitable that it would one day end up on stage. As it is headed around the country on tour we thought we’d go check it out and sent Emma van Kooperen to find out how it stands up on stage.

Being a fan of the 1987 film did I go into the theatre with high expectations? Of course I did. Was I disappointed? Sadly, yes. Although that’s not to say Dirty Dancing is a bad show, far from it. It just did not have the same charm and allure that the movie held for me.

The first act seemed to race along, attempting to recreate as many iconic scenes as they could, sadly most of them missing the mark and the added references to freedom riding in the South, mentioned only in passing in the movie, felt unnecessary. Eleanor Bergstein’s often lacklustre script just does not translate well to the stage and being more of a play with music than a musical, when someone did break into song it felt almost like they had walked out onto the wrong show.

Roseanna Frascona plays Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman with an endearing naivety which soon blossoms into a confident, and still likeable, self-assurance whilst bringing something new to the character, which is unsurprising since she has allegedly never seen the movie. As Johnny Castle, Gareth Bailey is a solid performer but then he has big shoes to fill. He does not quite have the charm Patrick Swayze has in the film but he does come close and I did find myself cheering along with the rest of the audience at THAT line.

For me the stand out of the show was Carlie Milner as Johnny’s dance partner Penny somehow taking what I believe to be an unlikeable character into a sympathetic, albeit feisty, one. The stage seemed on the verge of catching fire during Johnny and Penny’s dance numbers, thanks as much to Bailey and Milner’s charisma as Kate Champion’s choreography. The scenes with Baby learning to dance however were far too drawn out and at times a bit dull.

The highlight definitely had to the finale which had the audience, even the men, cheering. I will go so far as to say it was worth sitting through the rest of the show for, although Jessie-Lou Yates’ cringe worthy but hilarious (for the right reasons) performance of Lisa’s Hula was a close second.

I may not have had the time of my life but it was certainly made for an enjoyable evening.

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