Shropshire Events and Whats On Guide

Shropshire Events and Whats On Guide

Theatre Review : Dirty Dancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Eldon Lee reviews “Dirty Dancing”, which is at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 11th October 2014 

As ‘Dirty Dancing’ comes to a climax, two members of the chorus line find themselves recreating the famous Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes hit “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” whilst dancers Johnny and Baby finally achieve the equally famous lift they’ve been rehearsing all show. Just to make it all the more memorable, the catwalk revolves as they do so. It’s a tremendously rousing finale to a show that took my breath away with the sheer quality of the performances and the impeccable slickness of the production. It was hard to believe the whole show had been in the back of a couple of trucks just a few hours ago. It really was a memorable night of tight trousers, perms and glitter. And that’s just the audience.

The record-breaking national tour of “Dirty Dancing” is phenomenal. Demand for tickets is such that even a three-week run at Wolverhampton Grand is barely long enough. Why?

Well, marketing is everything. The 1987 film is a useful tool and in this day and age of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ there’s a latent thirst for dance shows. And even as you walk into the theatre the logo beams down at you. But despite all the hype, it is a truly brilliant show…with a decent love story set in a firm time frame of social change, and with dazzling dance routines performed by highly athletic, long-legged perfectionists.

In case you haven’t seen the film (and I haven’t), it’s the summer of 1963 at a holiday camp in the USA. Martin Luther King is making speeches on the radio, President Kennedy has yet to go to Dallas and The Beatles have yet to cross The Atlantic. On vacation at this crossroads in consciousness is young, naïve ‘Baby’- a sad, mousy girl with turned in toes and a commitment to the Peace Corps who, in just a few days, becomes a dance floor sensation. Unlikely, I know, but Rosemary Frascona is totally convincing as Baby; as she takes her first few steps, she dances badly really well.  

The dancing star is Garath Bailey in the late Patrick Swayze’s role. This guy has a body filled with liquid and a natural, understated, acting ability that is honest and riveting. I wasn’t one of the ones who hollered out when he took his shirt off, but I was in awe of his feline footwork and acrobatic prowess.

Much of the scenery is beautifully projected, allowing Johnny and Babe to rehearse in a cornfield and practice their ‘lift’ in a lake. The visuals were hugely impressive and their timing of their action to the splashes, spot on. It’s an exceptionally well drilled show. 

Wonderful as the leads are, Claire Rogers can’t help catching the eye as poor Penny. Far from being second banana, she too flowed through the show with breathless grace, style and stamina. Some of her moves were so amazing I was begging for a slow motion machine.

The one weakness (and other American musicals have done this) is the highjacking of history to try to beef up the drama. Crucial turning points in humanity are given lip service and then cast aside. I’m not sure the historical heroes would be impressed.

The family story has more than enough going for it and the ultimately uplifting plot and thrilling choreography are peppered with some genuinely funny routines …. making Dirty Dancing an irresistible experience; even for clodhopper like me.

Visit www.grandtheatre.info for bookings & information about Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre