Are you ready to have the time of your life? All jokes about ‘Baby’s’ and corners aside, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage is seriously something special. Directed by Federico Bellone the show celebrates the 35th anniversary of the iconic film with a limited run at the Dominion Theatre. Be prepared for the sheer electrifying atmosphere, the air that is thick with proverbial hormones, and an audience rabid with enthusiasm.
It’s the summer of 1963 and Baby (Kira Malou) is on holiday with her family at Kellerman’s resort. Like many classic, ‘coming of age’ heroines, she still thinks her dad’s the greatest guy in the world. This changes when she starts interacting with the staff at Kellerman’s, despite the clear class division. When beautiful dancer Penny (Carlie Milner) gets in trouble, Baby offers to help out by taking her place as bad boy Johnny’s (Michael O’Reilly) dance partner. However, things become complicated when the pair starts to develop feelings for each other.
The entire cast and production team deserve the highest of praise, particularly the vocal talent. Carlie Milner as Penny was particularly eye-catching. Milner has the kind of stunning talent that makes you want to immediately start dance lessons, (although we can only dream of being that good). Kira Malou was the perfect Baby, sweet, bold and funny. Malou particularly excelled at physical comedy, which in turn made her Baby very relatable and realistic.
However, it was pretty clear who stole the entire audience’s hearts, if the screaming and giggling from the stalls was anything to go on, and that was Michael O’Reilly’s Johnny. He is the perfect fit for the character and it certainly helps that he looks as if he could be Patrick Swayze younger brother. A commanding presence on stage, O’Reilly’s performance is the ‘pièce de résistance’ to an already amazing show.
The musical injects some much-needed diversity into the original plot, Martin Luther King can be heard on the radio, it’s mentioned that some of the busboys are planning on joining the Freedom Rides protests in the south, and Neil, the annoying grandson of the resort’s owner, proudly tells Baby that Kellerman’s was one of the first resorts where segregation was ended. Sometimes these illusions to history don’t quite land, particularly in the latter’s case, however on the whole they add a rich and necessary depth to the show.
A good indicator of a great musical is how soon you search for the cast recording on your phone. With Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage the majority of the audience were already singing, some quietly others not, as they headed for the exits. Clear some space in your diary and tell your friends, this show is a must-watch for all.