Dirty Dancing at the Marlowe Theatre

Eleanor Bergstein’s Dirty Dancing, originally starring the legendary Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, is still one of the best loved romantic films of all time. Most people know what you’re talking about when you say ‘THE lift’ and ‘nobody puts baby in a corner’, and so Bergstein decided to take this iconic love story and transform it into a stage production. In theory that was a wonderful idea- the infectious music combined with the fun, sexy dance moves are the perfect ingredients for a stage spectacular. Unfortunately, the current UK tour of the production does not quite hit the mark.

The chemistry was lacking between the two leads, Paul- Michael Jones and Jill Winternitz (Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman). Living up to the Swayze name is no easy feat, some would say it’s pretty much impossible, and while Jones is an extremely talented dancer, the moments where sparks should have been flying between the pair were instead a bit flat. Line delivery throughout the show could be improved upon by several cast members to iron out a few awkward moments that stunted the flow of dialogue. This wasn’t helped by the addition of a few new lines that sometimes seemed out of character, especially Baby’s comment about dying a virgin during the new campfire scene, and were altogether unnecessary to the progression of the story. Nevertheless, both Emilia Williams as Baby’s older sister Lisa, and Stefan Menaul as Neil Kellerman, had great comical timing and delivery. Jones’ ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’ deservedly got some whoops and cheers, and Winternitz’s ‘I carried a watermelon’ was by far one of her best lines.

Winternitz’s characterisation bore hardly any resemblance to the endearingly naïve and sweet Baby we are used to. Instead, she was a little annoying at times and didn’t convey the quiet and mature intelligence that makes Baby so likeable. She had one or two comical moments, especially in the scenes where she was learning to dance, but while Baby in the film progresses into a competent dancer by the final big performance, Winternitz didn’t really make that big jump from clumsy to graceful; I noticed her looking at her feet numerous times during ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’ and the routine overall didn’t sparkle like it should. This was disappointing because it is such a famous routine and it should have the audience buzzing with excitement, but I felt more inclined to watch the ensemble instead.

The dirty dancers showcased some impressive moves and routines; their execution was near faultless. Having said that, the same lifts were noticeably used more than once, and it seemed as though the choreography prioritised fancy manoeuvres over actual ‘dirty’ dancing. As Billy says, these kids came up with and practised these moves in their basements, but it mostly looked as though they’d come up with them in a ballroom.

The music was this production’s saviour; all of the classics from the film were played and sung at a high quality. Wayne Smith’s performance of ‘In the Still of the Night’ was enchanting and ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’ by Smith and Rosa O’Reilly was smooth and classy, and I think it would have done Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes proud. Despite these little moments that made me recoil slightly, it was an enjoyable production. Die-hard fans of the film may leave feeling a little bit unsatisfied.


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