Writer: Eleanor Bergstein
Director: Sarah Tipple
Reviewer: Marina Spark
The stage adaptation of the iconic 1980s movie has mambo’d into Plymouth’s Theatre Royal this week in true chick flick style. With lashings of flair, heaps of style and just the right amount of hip thrusting, this show is bound to please fans of the movie.
The stage is pretty bare, just as it should be, in order for the audience to revel in the dancing that is promised by the title of the show. Instead of unnecessary physical sets, scenes are set by huge video screens that change with the scenes. This clever set provides very well for the much loved moments that mostly appear to be set in unadaptable settings, such as the lake scene. The only downside to relying on such a technologically heavy set is that the screens at times do feel a little impersonal.
The atmosphere at the Kellerman holiday park is created by the vivacious ensemble. Their energy levels are tip top. There are some great voices in the ensemble, especially from Natalie Winsor and Matthew Colthart. The difficulty that this show faces is that it is pipped up against the film and because it is so true to it, direct comparisons can be made. Unfortunately, the show falls down against its screen counterpart when it comes to the quality of dancing, particularly within the ensemble, which at times fees somewhat clunky.
On the other hand, the lead rôles are fantastic dancers. Jessie Hart, who plays Baby, takes the character through a “coming of age” character arc, and that progression is reflected really well in her dancing. Hart is very endearing and her portrayal of Baby is truly memorable. Lewis Kirk plays Johnny Castle, the snake-hipped dance tutor who steals Baby’s heart. Kirk recreates the rôle from the movie well, and manages to put his own brooding stamp on it, too. Needless to say his dancing is impeccable. Claire Rogers plays the unfortunate-in-love Penny Johnson. Rogers’ dancing is mesmerising and she plays the rôle of Penny with sensitivity. As is to be expected, this trio leads the action and they play their parts ideally.
Memorable comedic performances come from Georgina Castle, who plays Lisa Houseman, Baby’s older but not wiser sister and Mark Faith, who plays Mr Schumacher, whose dance skills are totally unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
The writing, by Eleanor Bergstein and direction by Sarah Tipple are true to the film as far as is possible, which is a blessing and a curse; the big hitter moments are great crowd pleasers, but some of the interlinking/scene setting moments, especially in the first act, can drag a little. That said, fans of the film cannot fail to be pleased with this show. It really is a lot of fun and has the audience leaving the auditorium with a spring in their step.
Runs untilSaturday 4th July 2015.