Dirty Dancing (tour – Bristol Hippodrome)

”Dirty Dancing” provides The Time Of Your Life for our reviewer at the Bristol Hippodrome

The film Dirty Dancing is one of the most iconic films of the 1980’s – who will ever forget the classic line "Nobody puts Baby in the corner". If you enjoyed the film, you will love the stage show.

It can be quite difficult transferring a very successful film to a stage show. Obviously a film has the advantage of different locations, several "takes" etc to get it right, but the stage show certainly holds its own.

The story is set in 1963, "before President Kennedy got shot, before the Beatles came". It tells the story of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, played by Roseanne Frascona, and Johnny Castle, brilliantly played on Wednesday night by one of the understudies – Lewis Kirk. They are both fiercely independent young people from different worlds. Baby is from a comfortably off middle class family with a Father – Dr Houseman, played by James Coombes – whom she adores, whilst Johnny, a lowly dance entertainer who is actually employed to keep the ladies happy with dance lessons, comes from a much less affluent background. They come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives. They both grow up and become stronger people in their different ways.

The dancing throughout the show is hot and sexy. All the dancers are outstanding, but I think a special mention needs to be made of Claire Rogers, who plays Penny Johnson, a girl who finds herself in trouble and who is helped by Baby and, unexpectedly, Dr Houseman. Her dancing is superb and has to be seen to be believed. The choreography by Kat Champion is excellent – the show moves along at a fast pace but still retains the sensitivity necessary to tell the story.

The set designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis is amazing; it’s very simple, but with clever usage manages to portray the very many scene changes, and coupled with Tim Mitchell‘s very clever use of lighting and video projection to enhance the scenes we were able to see such incredible things as Baby and Johnny dancing in long lush grassy fields and also dancing in the sea. Very cleverly done and hugely appreciated by the audience.

The music is spectacular, exciting and powerful. All the well known songs from the film are there – "Hungry Eyes", "Hey Baby", and the heart stopping "(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life." Conrad Helfrich (musical supervisor),and Richard Weeden (musical director) have provided an excellent musical feast which fully and competently backs the singers and ensemble, gives the right beat and thrust to the music for dancing, and sends a powerful feel good factor through the audience.

All in all this is a wonderful evening’s entertainment – if you get the chance to go along, grab it with both hands. I bet you’ll leave the theatre with your feet tapping, your fingers clicking, and humming the songs as you go.

– Barbara Maxwell