Since being a dancer from 1999 onwards, I’ve watched pretty much every dance-related movie ever. Step Up, Bring It On, Flashdance – I was even in a school production of Chicago in years gone by. But nothing, nothing, will ever come close to cult-classic Dirty Dancing. I mean, all the good films were made in the 80s, right?
This month, The Regent Theatre sees the classic film brought to life on stage with a cast who couldn’t be better suited to the production. And who better to adapt the story for on-stage than the movie’s original scriptwriter, Eleanor Bergstein.
For those of you who have never seen the film (where have you been?!) here’s a brief summary. Francis ‘Baby’ Houseman is a bright girl who is ‘going to change the world’, her father says. On a summer vacation to the Catskill mountains, the 17-year-old falls for the resorts dance teacher, Johnny, after stepping in as his dance partner. Of course, the only thing standing between the young lovers is a disappointed father who forbids the romance. But as we all know – Nobody puts Baby is a corner.
In the stage adaptation, Johnny Castle is played by Michael O’Reilly, who makes a fabulous Swayze. I think a few of the ladies in the audience may have drooled a little. He really nailed the role, and pulled off the leather jacket and sunglasses indoors off impeccably. Kira Malou, playing Baby, did a wonderful job of playing the awkward, innocent teen. The spark between the couple on stage was electric, and very convincing throughout intimate scenes, including one where O’Reilly gives a cheeky flash of the booty. The ladies that weren’t drooling were whistling instead.
As well as being a brilliant actress, Kira is the queen of quick changes. She had me doubting my own mind and thinking I was insane. In one moment, she wore a blue, 60s halterneck dress, and without even leaving the stage, around 5 seconds later was sporting cut-off shorts and a striped tshirt.
The choreography throughout was perfect. A personal favourite for me was O’Reilly and Simone Covele’s (playing Penny) mambo number. Covele oozes confidence and sass whilst she struts her stuff, but also displays Penny’s more vulnerable side throughout her ordeal. Her flexibility and technique is mesmerising, and I am not surprised that Baby envies her.
The special thing about musicals and on-stage productions is their ability to involve the audience in a way movies can’t. Cheeky glances and comedy helped the production thrive as we all giggled through Baby’s dance lessons and at sister Lisa’s hula singing performance. Even the some of the sets were created in an ingeniously humorous way. That infamous water scene was portrayed through a semi-opaque screen that had the set projected on to it – I can’t think of a better way it could have been done and Malou and O’Reilly’s acting made you forget it was actually a set.
The last dance of the season came around, and Johnny Castle made his way from the back of the auditorium and onto the stage, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”. By this point I was pretty emotional, and then began the dance routine I’d tried to perfect in my bedroom as a kid. Baby had transformed from this clumsy kid, into a confident, strong woman (with an incredibly hot guy). They nailed the legendary lift and not a single person in the room wasn’t stood on their feet whooping and cheering.
If you go and see one show for the rest of the year, make it Dirty Dancing. It’s at The Regent Theatre until 20th October, and tickets are still available here.