Review – Dirty Dancing at the Derngate!
‘Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.’ Damn you Dirty Dancing, for giving teenage Muddy very high expectations of love in that big bad world out there. I was 13 years old when the film came out, and there wasn’t a girl in my class who didn’t want to be Baby, or to kiss Johnny! It’s fair to say the film left a lasting impression on me, so I was pretty excited *squeals, for the stage show which kicked off last night!
And boy did it deliver! Following two blockbuster West End runs, two hit UK tours, and various sensational international productions, the brand new production of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage hit Northampton with some very tight jeans and cuban heels. We all know the hit songs ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ and the fabulously cheesy (but brilliant, obvs), ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, and they were all there in glorious technicolour.
Touted as being full of passion and romance, heart-pounding music and sensationally sexy dancing (just like my life turned out to be), it was that and more. The characters acted, sang and danced their hearts out, but what was really unusual, was how many of them actually looked like the film version actors. Penny was the double of actual Penny! She was all round awesome, and had such a high kick, I feared for Johnny’s head on occasion. And speaking of Johnny’s head (and abs and backside for that matter), it was all very pleasing to the eye. There were several gasps from the audience (possibly female and male) especially when he bared all in a nude thong (I think it’s one of those props that make you look like you’ve got nothing on; but I was looking REALLY closely). Lewis Griffiths is no stranger to the Derngate after treading those particular boards earlier this year with Jersey Boys. And if that boy ever fancies a career change, he would smash it as a Hollywood movie voiceover (his bass hits depths that would put hairs on your chest). Katie Hartland was brilliant as Baby, and nailed the performance despite the slightly dodgy fringe that had me reaching out to try and tame. And the ensemble cast was superb, a particular shout out to Baby’s Dad, Mother and Sister, they were funny, ernest and epitomised the American 1960s beautifully!
If I was being overly picky, I’d say the production lost a bit of warmth from the characters by being a bit stompy and over exaggerated with their performances. They didn’t really leave enough pause from delivery to reaction for real emotions to register. But hey, what do I know; it’s probably very difficult to do the nuanced performance on stage, made famous by Swayze on the big screen.
Having loved the film previously, I knew very little about the stage show, but since its Australian debut in 2004, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon, consistently breaking box office records. The production originally opened in the UK at London’s Aldwych Theatre in 2006 with a record-breaking advance of £15 million, making it the fastest ever selling show in West End theatre history. The current version was reconceived in an all new production which premiered in Milan in July 2015.
We all know the story don’t we? Ok, here’s a quick premise for you over there who’s never seen it. It’s set in the summer of 1963, where 17 year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman stumbles across an all-night dance party at the resort staff quarters (oh how we wished it was us). Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle (whit woo) the resort dance instructor. Thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off, Baby’s life is about to change forever…
Featuring the much-loved characters and original dialogue from the iconic film (because that’s what kinda made it, oui), there are now extra scenes added in to ensure you leave with an earworm of songs and quotes (iconic Dirty Dancing quotes below). I’ve been singing Hungry Eyes on repeat since last night (and I cannot unsee that backside, so sue me ; ) I wasn’t sure it would live up to the film, and I was a bit worried about leaving and feeling a bit meh, but how could I when I was transported back to that summer in Kellerman’s! In summary, I was very pleasantly surprised, and would go so far as to say, if you only even have a passing interest in the film, go, it will entertain you and take your mind off the real stuff for a while.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage can be seen at Royal & Derngate from Monday 31 October to Saturday 5 November. Tickets are priced from £18 to £46, with premium tickets available at £56*. Call Box Office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk to book.
‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner.’
‘I carried a watermelon.”Oh, come on, ladies. God wouldn’t have given you maracas if He didn’t want you to shake ’em.’
‘Sorry for the interruption, folks, but I always do the last dance of the season. This year somebody told me not to. So I’m gonna do my kind of dancin’ with a great partner, who’s not only a terrific dancer, but somebody… who’s taught me… that there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them. Somebody who’s taught me about the kind of person I wanna be. Miss Frances Houseman *tear
‘Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine.’
‘Where is my beige iridescent lipstick?’