The return of Dirty Dancing to the West End, starring Jill Winternitz and Paul-Michael Jones "oozes cheese", but is nonetheless enjoyable, says Amy Stow
Dirty Dancing has practically become an institution. The story of Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle - and the music that accompanies their blossoming love/lust - is known across the globe. This iconic movie now makes another appearance on the West End, and is a welcome, hilarious addition to the musical theatre line up in London this summer.
Set at Kellerman's summer camp in the 1960s, the clean, cheesy, wholesome fun that goes on the all-American camp is contrasted with the smutty backstage drama. The show presents a plethora of steamy scenes depicting the raunchy, writhing-bodied dancing that gives the film its name; smoke jets and red lights set the scene, and various spectacular dance numbers mean that there is always something of interest to watch, and somebody to focus on.
The crux of the plot of course rests on the performances of Jill Winternitz as Baby and Paul-Michael Jones as Johnny. Winternitz is a revelation as Baby, and a delight to watch. Her harried attempts to learn the iconic dance routine are simply hilarious, and as an accomplished dancer, my hat goes off to her for having to ‘unlearn' her skills, as it were. Winternitz somehow makes many of the cheesy one-liners, and short (often unnecessary) scenes seem more grounded and real. Jones as Johnny, however - despite his disarming likeness to Patrick Swayze - is less than charismatic. His voice doesn't gel with the manly role of Johnny, and I didn't quite believe his bad-boy image, although his dancing was of course sensational.
The set is simple and functional; the band can be seen through some white, picket-fence slats, reminiscent of a doll's house or wardrobe, playing wonderfully atmospheric renditions of songs of the era. The continued use of a screen however, playing videos of backdrops and skylines, feels a little cheap.
The entire play, including its staging, oozes cheese; yet once you buy into this fact, and take its approach to the film as unequivocally tongue-in-cheek, the characters and their plight, ridiculous as it may seem, becomes a whole lot more enjoyable.
With an array of beautiful costumes, leggy dancers, some lovely singing voices, and classic one-liners, this production won't change the world - but it does get you out of your seat in the end, dancing along.
- Amy Stow
Want to make up your own mind? Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing to Dirty Dancing on 13 August 2013 and get a top-price ticket, free poster and access to our post-show meet and greet for just £35.00. Click here for more information.