Review: Dirty Dancing Doesn't Quite Give Us The Time Of Our Lives

Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage, Dominion Theatre ★★★☆☆

Review: Dirty Dancing Doesn't Quite Give Us The Time Of Our Lives Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage, Dominion Theatre 3
Kira Malou and Michael O'Reilly are brilliantly cast in Dirty Dancing at Dominion Theatre. © Mark Senior

Less a movie-to-stage adaptation and more like a jukebox musical, Dirty Dancing is unmissable for fans of the ultimate girls-night-in movie. For everyone else? Not so much.

Set in 1963 America, Baby Houseman is holidaying with her folks at a summer camp. She falls for the resident dance instructor Johnny Castle and is drawn into his underworld of backstage parties and wild dancing.

Those who haven’t seen the original 1987 sleeper hit may struggle to follow what plot there is here; writer Eleanor Bergstein has taken the movie's most memorable scenes and strung them together like a greatest hits album with barely a toe-flick in the way of exposition or characterisation.

Michael O'Reilly plays Johnny Castle, a seductive hunk who, when not walking around semi-naked, belies his muscled physique to bring a nuanced and sensitive performance. © Mark Senior

Where this show excels in spades is in the casting of leads: Michael O’Reilly as Johnny Castle is a seductive hunk who, when not walking around semi-naked, belies his muscled physique to bring a nuanced and sensitive performance much in the way the much-missed Patrick Swayze did. Kira Malou's Baby is a carbon copy of the film version down to the wig and mannerisms, while Carlie Milner sets the stage alight as Johnny's dance partner Penny.

Like Saturday Night Fever a decade before it (and Strictly Ballroom a few years after), the film artfully mixed spectacular dance floor action and romantic cliche with commentary on contemporary issues like racism, misogyny and class prejudice. There's some of that here but not enough to make any kind of meaningful impact.

This 'greatest hits' adaptation is one for the fans. © Mark Senior

The show's finest moments are reserved for the ending of the first and second halves which are, respectively, highly erotic and shamelessly barnstorming. Ultimately, Bergstein knows her audience and delivers them the goods in this faithful but flawed production.

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, Dominion Theatre, tickets from £24, until 16 April

Last Updated 09 February 2022