facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Dirty Dancing

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 22 April 2008

After a long preview period and a considerable amount of hype, the stars were out last night at the Aldwych for the opening night of the stage show of Dirty Dancing, the 80s film that resides in the video collection of most under 30-year-old women. Caroline Bishop, herself one of the aforementioned, went along hoping to be swept off her feet by a dirty dancer – oh, and to watch the show…

The classic story on stage is how this theatrical adaptation of the immensely popular 1987 film is billed. True enough, this dance musical (it is not a musical of the usual variety, as the leads don’t sing) includes every scene from the celluloid original, every line, every facial expression almost.

The first half in particular is strictly faithful to the film, which is – in case you avoided it first time around – the coming of age story of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, an idealistic tomboy teenager and daddy’s girl, who holidays at Kellerman’s holiday camp in New York state with her family in 1963. Dreaming of joining the Peace Corps and putting the world to rights, Baby’s idealism is challenged by misunderstood dance instructor Johnny Castle, who introduces her to dirty dancing and another side of life. When Baby agrees to stand in for Johnny’s ‘knocked-up’ dance partner Penny, the pair fall in love.

On stage, the roles of Baby and Johnny, made famous by quirky Jennifer Grey and the mullet-haired Patrick Swayze, are played by Georgina Rich, in only her second West End outing, and former Australian Ballet star Josef Brown, who originated the role in the Australian production of the show. Both do a good impression of the movie leads (girls, Brown’s rippling torso is even more impressive than Swayze’s), though they are limited in what they can bring to the roles – even particular instances of body language well-known from the film are mirrored on stage. The translation also extends to the outdoor scenes, in which Baby and Johnny practise their lifts; large-scale projections are used to recreate the famous log and lake, though a little imagination and knowledge of the film comes in handy.

Where the show comes into its own is through the live dancing; Brown and the long-legged Nadia Coote as Penny are especially impressive, and Rich’s transformation from flat-footed tomboy to stiletto-heeled dancer, like Grey in the film, makes us girls feel maybe we could do it too. While most of the evocative 60s music is used as a soundtrack, as in the film, the live version of the final song, (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, is a stand-out.

The show does offer new scenes, predominantly in Act 2, which add to, rather than replace, the originals. An attempt is made to give more of a flavour of the political climate of the time, as Neil, Kellerman’s grandson and Baby’s inept suitor, gets involved in the civil rights movement, and Baby chastises Johnny for his indifferent attitude to voting. More is made too of Baby’s family, through extra scenes between her parents which reveal more about Mr Houseman’s aversion to Johnny. Though these scenes are unfamiliar to fanatics of the film, it is nice to see a variation to the faithful plot-following of Act 1.

But ultimately, the audience came to see what they already knew, as proved by the shrieks and whoops which greeted the final scene: the now worldly-wise and slightly corrupted Baby dances with her bit of rough, Johnny, in public and wins the approval of her daddy. Aw, shucks.

CB

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.