Director: Paul Spicer
Choreographer: Leanne Harwood
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Dirty Dancing the movie was released in 1987, which brilliantly evoked nostalgia for 1963 and has since become the chick flick to rule them all. One of its biggest legacies was the soundtrack which sold by the million and spawned a revival of these classic tunes that lasts right up to today. This tribute show focuses on that music and of course the choreography that goes with it. It certainly goes down a storm – particularly perhaps with ladies who were at an impressionable age when the movie was released.
Many tribute acts coast on the audience’s familiarity with the source material. However, for the most part, this show took its inspiration from the movie’s era and general themes. Without the need to slavishly ape a previous incarnation of the music, the performers are free to add their own interpretations. Featured songs include some numbers that were not in the film which are post-1963, but fit thematically (‘Lambada’ and Creedence Clearwater’s ‘Proud Mary’ being two obvious examples).
Superlatives to describe the cast feel inadequate. Only eight on the stage and each display an enormously high level of talent in both their dancing and singing abilities. Aimie Atkinson and Matt Firth carry the majority of the solo singing duties and do so with faultless vocals. This is further boosted by them also processing genuine warmth, charm and enthusiasm which allow them to instantly connect with the audience in a seemingly effortless manner. This pays dividends throughout, especially during the frequent audience participation sections which could be excruciating, but which here are actually welcomed by the crowd. Dancing in the aisles is mandatory with a clever spin being that the cast take the audience through simple choreographed moves much to the amusement of everyone involved.
Elsewhere in the cast, Tricia Adele-Turner impresses with solos including a very moving ‘You Don’t Own Me’ while Chris Southgate displays great range bouncing between a soulful ‘Where are You Tonight?’ and a very funny ‘La Bamba’. The entire cast dances and does so extremely well, but Laura Ellis and James Davies-Williams step into the spotlight as the featured dancers. Their ‘Cry to Me’ routine is the epitome of dirty dancing and a highlight of the evening.
Paul Spicer’s direction and Leanne Harwood’s choreography make up for a lack of narrative, by treating each song as a story and all of the performers bring these tales to life through acting the songs while maintaining tight harmonies and synchronised moves. This is West End level multitasking that brings just enough musical theatre into the mix to allow the near two-hour running time to never flag. Meanwhile, the lighting is as tightly choreographed and impressive as the dancing, and although constantly moving and changing somehow always manages to enhance as opposed to distract from the action.
This is quite simply a thoroughly entertaining, visually stunning extravaganza that showcases some extraordinary talent. Oh, and if you are a lady of a certain age who can’t think of Patrick Swayze without turning to jelly, then feel free to add an extra star to this review!
Reviewed on: 9th March 2014