After having been a fan of the film version of Dirty Dancing I was eager to experience the live sensation of the story on stage. I left the Birmingham Hippodrome feeling a sense of enjoyment but also the ‘sensation’ I did not anticipate; underwhelmed. Luckily, Jill Winternitz (Baby) and Paul-Michael Jones (Johnny) had an intense chemistry that had a serious rivalry to that of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the movie version.
Clever and sophisticated lighting and staging allows for a simple set that transports each scene seamlessly. The small amount of props and backdrops are somewhat unnoticeable as the cast and orchestra fill the stage in most scenes, allowing the vast space of the theatre to be utilised whilst, in some more intimate scenes, scaled right down so the audience feel close to Baby and Johnny.
Paul-Michael Jones is a natural and genuine talent when it comes to dance. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to show off any vocals at all. However, most of the audience didn’t seem too bothered about the lack of singing as his classic ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’ line, was met with a huge cheer and round of applause from the crowd. His strong dancing ability allowed him to channel Swayze to a fine and perfect degree.
Jill Winternitz takes on Baby Houseman, a simple character that requires a small stretch in terms or emotion. Winternitz is believable in the vulnerability of Baby and her chemistry with Jones is electric. Her dancing is superb but I felt that something was missing from her portrayal; she needed a little more drive and energy. An overall good interpretation but, unfortunately, was overshadowed by both Jones and Nicky Griffiths.
Nicky Griffiths is an outstanding Penny Johnson, the best female in the cast by a long shot. Her traumatic scenes are carefully directed by director Sarah Tipple, as to allow the audience in on her experience whilst not being too graphic and upsetting. Aside from the strong an emotional acting, her dance skills are phenomenal; a genuine star and a fantastic dance partner.
Disappointing news for fans of ‘She’s Like The Wind’ as the small instrumental of the classic song is the only taste that the audience will hear. Again, no vocals from Jones and this time no stand in vocalists to take the lead. I felt a strange and confusing move to remove one of the most famous songs.
The final few scenes do make up for a slightly lacklustre musical score. Of course, ending with ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’ is a fantastic way to end the show. The love story comes to a close and we finally see Baby in the famous ‘lift’, something I think the audience had been waiting for all night.
Whilst movie to stage musicals aren’t always my favourite type of show, Dirty Dancing does not disappoint for fans of the movie. It’s got all the elements of a fun-filled night out at the theatre, albeit not to everyone’s taste.
Dirty Dancing, already in its second week, plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome until August 25.