Last Updated on February 9, 2022
Dirty Dancing on Stage waltzes into the Dominion Theatre
A voice booms across the theatre asking if we are ready to have the time of our life before the stage energetically fills with couples dancing to music. Lifts, dips and air splits are magnificently executed within the first minutes of the show.
This dazzlingly renewed version of Dirty Dancing celebrates 35 years of the iconic hit film, which tells the classic story of two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds (essentially classes) who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives set in the 1960s.
Frances “Baby” Houseman played by Kira Malou then proceeds to talk about the magical summer when she was vacationing with her parents Jake and Marjorie Houseman, portrayed by Lynden Edwards and Lori Haley Fox respectively, at Kellerman’s. When a porter passes by carrying boxes of shoes stacked high, Baby’s sister Lisa, depicted by Lizzie Ottley, remarks that she should have brought that other pair of shoes. We are then introduced to the nature of the upscale Catskills resort owned by Jake’s best friend Max Kellerman, played by Michael Remick.
Baby proceeds to explore the resort one night, and witnesses Max instructing all the waiters to romance the resort’s female guests. It is in this scene that the audience will notice how smooth the transition is between sets and scenes, as if every single second is choreographed and blocked to precision. This is also our first glimpse of Johnny Castle portrayed by Michael O’Reilly, one of the dance instructors, where he is demeaned by Max as he is of a lower class.
When Michael O’Reilly steps on the stage, he just oozes this charisma and the audience definitely takes notice as cheers erupt throughout the audience.
In another seemingly magical transition, we are then taken to a ballroom where Johnny shows off his moves with his dance partner Penny Johnson, played by Carlie Milner. Amidst all the great dancing, Carlie Milner really steals the show with her exquisite form, straight lines and numerous impeccable air splits. The dance chemistry between Michael O’Reilly and Carlie Milner is also very natural, their moves executed with effortless grace at all times.
Baby becomes visibly attracted to Johnny and gets the chance to meet him after she helps Billy, depicted by Samuel Bailey, carry watermelons. Kira Malou impressively plays every bit the innocent shy teenager who can barely dance when she finally gets to dance with Johnny at Miller.
When Baby learns that Penny is pregnant, she confronts the father Robbie, depicted by James McHugh, who refuses to help Penny financially. Baby then borrows money from her father to fund Penny’s abortion, and volunteers to take her place for a performance with Johnny at a nearby resort.
The dance practice sessions between Baby and Johnny were really entertaining to watch and Kira Malou really manages to convince you that she cannot dance while trying to hide her massive crush on Johnny. There was also an impressive quick change moment where the stage goes black for one second and when the lights go back, Baby and Johnny are wearing different attires. When they finally perform their Mambo magic number, I can completely feel Baby’s nerves as she tries to execute the dance moves.
Unfortunately, Penny’s abortion is botched which results in Baby asking for her dad’s help to save Penny’s life. Due to Baby’s deception and a mistaken assumption that Johnny got her pregnant, Dr. Houseman gives Baby the silent treatment. Disheartened, Baby secretly visits Johnny to apologize for her dad’s treatment, but Johnny feels that he deserves that kind of treatment due to his status.
A notably salacious scene depicting Michael O’Reilly’s bare backside post coitus garners cheers from the audience, but the intimate chemistry is probably bolstered by the fact that Michael O’Reilly and Kira Malou are a couple in real life. Johnny is eventually fired due to mingling with a guest after Baby admits she was in Johnny’s room to save him from being accused of theft. Baby is left heartbroken and tries to reconcile with his father.
During the final resort show, Johnny dramatically returns and exclaims “No one puts Baby in a corner!” and the dramatic dance finale to (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life is recreated and lives up to the hype of the original movie. In fact, I would say that this stage version is more impressive because instead of just performing a static lift as per the original movie, Michael O’Reilly manages to turn 360 degrees while holding Kira Malou in that position for at least ten seconds. I’ve managed a static lift position with someone laying down instead of standing up before and can tell from experience that it is incredibly hard to balance on someone’s hands for more than a few seconds statically, so cannot even begin to imagine movement. It took all the willpower for me not to take out my phone to film this scene as it was that impressive.
It seems that the rest of the audience had the same thought as the entire stalls section gave the cast of Dirty Dancing on Stage a standing ovation during the curtain call. I definitely had the time of my life.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage
Wednesday 2nd February – Saturday 16th April 2022
Monday – Thursday, 7.30pm
Friday, 5pm and 8.30pm
Saturday, 3pm and 7.30pm
Running time 2 hours 10 minutes
268-269 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 7AQ
Tickets £20 – £75, £100 Premium seats
Friday and Saturday evenings: £25 – £85, £125 Premium seats
Looking for a different kind of dance? We recommend Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Opera House