DIRTY DANCING | London, Dominion Theatre

The classic 1987 film was first adapted for the stage in 2004 as a musical called Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage. Opening in Australia, the show has since become a worldwide hit, and has played London multiple times. Written by Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the original film, forty percent of the stage show is new material, with twenty new scenes and twenty-five new songs.

The aim of the show is to give fans of the film their dream: to step through the screen, and be there at Kellerman’s Resort, while the story is taking place. The use of live, on-stage musicians throughout (as opposed to hidden away in the pit) makes us feel like we are right there, and there is something truly spectacular about seeing that lift live on stage.

But despite the ingenuity of the tour-ready direction and design (Federico Bellone), there is something about the story that is just unstageable. The entire film is about rebellion: against the old, conservative ways of Kellerman’s, by the new, unstoppable “dirty dancing” of the young people who work there. On stage, a small, young ensemble plays everyone in both worlds; there is no sense of contrast between the old world and the new, and no sense of rebellion.

In any case, the audience runs absolutely wild, yelling out, singing along, and whooping every time Johnny (Michael O’Reilly) takes his shirt off. Despite what the website may claim, this is probably not a show for theatregoers who haven’t yet seen the movie.

Playing at the Dominion Theatre 21 January – 29 April 2023.

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