First things first – spoiler alert! If you’re one of the nine people on the planet who hasn’t got round to seeing the film of Dirty Dancing in the 35 years since its release, you need to know that this review contains spoilers.
You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living through dark times and could all benefit from a couple of hours away from the constant reports of pestilence and war. The good news is that Dirty Dancing delivers escapism in spades; the bad news is, it has little else going for it.
This strangely lacklustre production had the unmistakeable whiff of am-dram about it, exemplified by a very short tap-dancing break in the first half, where two characters shuffled about unconvincingly for a few seconds to a tippety-tappety soundtrack. Sorry folks, I know it’s not 42nd Street, but this falls far short of what an audience should expect from West End musical theatre.
For an audience exposed to Strictly Come Dancing for the best part of two decades, a show like Dirty Dancing can’t get away with sub-par dance numbers and, while on occasion I found myself channelling my inner Shirley Ballas and muttering about arm extensions and relaxed shoulders, the company did a pretty good job. The Do You Love Me routine was far and away the show’s slickest and most uplifting segment, and special mention has to go to Carlie Milner as Penny Johnson who, despite the fact that she looked like the least pregnant person ever to have walked the earth, was by some measure the production’s stand-out performer.
Let’s be clear: the audience chiefly comprised groups of women (you could almost taste the oestrogen in the auditorium) who probably knew and loved the film and who may well have had a Pinot Grigio or two before curtain up. Judging by the whoops and the cheers (and I nearly joined in when Michael O’Reilly’s Johnny Castle whipped his shirt off to reveal a torso so ripped that I was overcome with both wide-eyed admiration and murderous envy) the show does enough to appeal to Dirty Dancing’s loyal fanbase and to the sizeable straight-girls-night-out demographic. And, if that’s you, you can get your ticket here.