Never having seen the iconic movie Dirty Dancing, I approached the stage musical without any preconceived ideas. Apart from knowing it would finish with the couple dancing to Time of My Life and include the well known lifts, also the immortal line about “nobody puts Baby in a corner” would be greeted with delight by the audience. I was right on all accounts.
The story follows the Houseman family as they spend their holidays at a very upmarket resort hotel, where the entertainment staff are only meant to entertain and provide dance lessons. But, of course, far more goes on and their youngest daughter Frances, known as Baby, comes involved with dancer Johnny Castle, much to her parents’ angst. However, as we know it will, everything works out by the finale.
While all the cast are very talented, it is Paul-Michael Jones, as Johnny who stands out. Oddly Jill Winternitz, as Baby, comes across as very cold and there is a lack of chemistry between her and Jones, which makes their on stage relationship, central to the whole story, hard to believe. Furthermore, it makes it hard to care about the character, who is central to the whole story.
The set, by Stephen Brimson Lewis, appears at first very basic and cold looking, leaving the stage bare most of the time, apart from the odd prop. However, projections do allow the story to move along at a steady pace, and on occasions are very effective.
The orchestra is suspended above the sliding video doors and Sound Designer, Bobby Aitken, ensures that every word of the songs, which include, Be My Baby, In The Still of The Night, This Land Is Your Land and Time Of My Life, are able to be heard.
This is a large scale touring musical, with a very talented cast and a great score, but it just fails to take off in the way it should.