For our joint 21st birthday presents, myself and my best friend were treated to a night at the theatre by our mummies. We went to see the musical adaptation of Dirty Dancing at the Alhambra in Bradford.
The story was simple and followed the film pretty much word for word. I was slightly apprehensive when the curtains opened and they seemed to be singing a completely original song, instead of Be My Baby, the iconic black and white opener to the film. But the original songs were few and the rest of the music harked back to the film’s classics like Hungry Eyes, Yes and of course, Time of My Life, and were exceptionally sung by the cast.
I must admit I did feel slightly sorry for the cast as they didn’t have the pleasantest of audiences. In a theatre up north like Bradford, on a Saturday night, you have to expect that there would be some loud ladies and rowdy hen-night girls, but the attitude of the audience was pretty despicable to the point of being downright rude. You don’t need to wolf-whistle every time Johnny does a body roll, that’s actually a human being up there trying to do his job, not a piece of meat.
But that’s a digression I don’t want to take whilst writing a theatre review. Theatre etiquette is something I’ll write about at a later date and you can be assured that there will probably be a rant about standing ovations in there as well.
Back to DD, Baby was a little twee for me, in comparison to Jennifer Grey’s dry, realistic teenage Baby, but perhaps on stage a little over-enthusiasm and over-expressiveness is necessary. There were some seriously cringy staging moments, like the water-lift scene (though again, possibly hard to pull off on stage) and Mr Shumacher was reduced to a slapstick comic joke.
Then again, you have to remind yourself that it was a touring production, and some of these actors might just be breaking into the business. Perhaps I’m a theatre snob, but I still enjoyed it nevertheless.
What I really must commend is the dancers. I was captivated and entranced by their skill and talent, especially Johnny and Penny. Having been a former dancer myself (tap, ballet and jazz up to the age of fourteen, so obviously I know what I’m talking about) and a regular watcher of Strictly Come Dancing, I still find myself absolutely absorbed by any form of dance movement and in awe of those who hone and perfect their craft.
Whilst music and familiar lines are as important as ever in the show, the real star is the dancing. With sharp choreography that echoes the film but doesn’t copy it step for step, it’s that flair and energy that really brings the film to life.
Of course, he’s no Patrick Swayze and she’s no Jennifer Grey. But no-one ever will be. This show shouldn’t ever be a carbon copy or an emulation, it’s really a love letter to the gift those actors and the wonderful Kenny Ortega gave us. The film is a classic, an icon, and this show evidently loves it as much as its dedicated fanbase does.
After all, no-one puts Baby in the corner.