Wednesday, 20 March 2019

REVIEW: Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking


Dirty Dancing is back on another national tour following its record-breaking success in 2016/2017. True to the classic film of the same name from 1987 starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, Dirty Dancing has been a fan favourite for over 30 years and this production does it complete justice and more. Featuring 35 hit songs, including Hungry Eyes, Hey Baby, Do You Love Me? and the heart stopping (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, you’re in for a real treat with this production. 

If you’ve been living under a rock and have never seen Dirty Dancing before, here’s a speedy summary. It’s the summer of 1963 and daddy’s girl Frances “Baby” Houseman travels to Kellerman’s summer resort where she meets the tall, dark and handsome Johnny Castle who works as a principal dancer there. These two strangers from different worlds become intertwined in a whirlwind of dance, drama and … watermelons. It’s a classic Romeo and Juliet style love story with a merengue or two thrown in for good measure. 

The choreography for this new production is mind-blowingly good and executed to perfection. Every single cast member shines and elevates this production to a completely new level of brilliance. As the seasoned leading dancer at Kellerman’s, Simone Covele’s Penny Johnson was sensational. Her featured dance spots in Act 1 were some of the highlights of the show. Her movement is categorically perfect; graceful, sexy and effortless. Brava, Diva. 

Kira Malou’s portrayal of France “Baby” Houseman is commendable. Her likeness to Jennifer Grey is astonishing. She brought a wonderful comedic thread to Baby and embraced the physicality completely. I can’t fault her at all – she was absolutely perfect. Michael O’Reilly as Johnny Castle….My goodness me. The reaction in the audience was borderline hysteria. I have honestly never seen anything like it from an audience before! From the moment he swaggers in with his Danny Zuko charm, his impeccable footwork and extraordinary strength had every woman in the audience like putty in his hands. His frame was stunning and he really was a superb Johnny. Malou and O’Reilly together shared a truly electric chemistry that set the audience alight. Dream casting choices. 

My last review of this show criticised wobbly set pieces and chaotic movement at all times. This new tour is refined and maintains its magic throughout. It’s also charmingly self-aware and isn’t afraid to embrace the corny moments the audience adore. Once again, the scene between Johnny and Baby at the lake rehearsing that iconic lift is so endearing and funny – it’s a very intelligent use of the space and keeps the audience smiling. What more could you ask for?

The lighting is also even more beautiful this time round with stunning hues
reminiscent of dusk and sunset through to the erotically charged red and pink lights of the staff quarters for their late night shenanigans. The costume pieces are true to the film with Baby’s iconic outfits all on show, as well as the leather-clad-tight-jeaned Johnny too. 

Dirty Dancing is the perfect girls night out. Tickets are a little on the pricey side, but for the quality of production and sheer volume of talent on that stage, it’s worth every penny. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have the time of your life too. 

Review by Harriet Langdown

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: F36 Stalls | Price of Ticket: £50.40
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