Have the time of your life

dirty dancing

Dirty Dancing

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*****

SO IT'S the summer of 1963, and at an affluent vacation resort in the USA, the Kellermans are beginning their holidays. It’s a time of change with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement heralding a new dawn for the nation.

At the resort the idealistic daughter Frances Kellerman meets Johnny Castle a handsome dance tutor with a heart of gold. She falls under his spell and the sexy new dance crazes. It’s all a stark contrast to her austere straight laced life and after a crash course and the entering of a dance competition, romance blossoms between them.

The Dirty Dancing phenomena has grown from a 1978 low budget movie of the same name , starring the then relatively unknown Patrick Swayze. To date the filmjohnny and Frances has grossed over 240 million dollars and in 2004 it was first performed on stage at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, Australia.

Like the film, the stage production has again become a global success with a variety of TV spin offs and now this highly successful UK national tour.

In contrast to the era, the stage is very contemporary, utilising high tech projection and with a clean open set that keeps evolving . Yet more large scale front projection is used that interacts with on stage effects to create some spectacular effects.

Gareth Bailey as Johnny and Roseanna Frascona as Frances

Of course it’s all about the dancing and Gareth Bailey as Johnny Castle is outstanding in the role. With Claire Rogers as Penny Johnson, Castles dancing friend, he was equally matched, Together the pair create some breath-taking dance numbers that gave them ample opportunity to show off their considerable talent.

Roseanna Frascona plays Frances the girl seduced by the rhythm of the dance and the magic of Johnny and it’s hard to make an impression against the glitz of the ensemble dance routines. However when she dances with Johnny in the iconic final routine ending with the lift that has become the classic image associated with the story, you too feel genuinely uplifted.

There is a fantastic supporting cast and the vocals of Wayne Smith as Billy Kostecki and Colin Charles asTito Suarez were very memorable.

Another high point was the band and the sound reproduction. Far too many touring musical companies skimp on their budget and disappoint in what is often the most important part of the show. In this tour however, under the musical direction of Richard Weedon and excellent sound design by Simon King, you can tell from opening seconds that no expense or expertise has been spared on the quality of the sound. 

It’s clear that with the film becoming a romantic classic over the years that the audience was mainly that of women, but with the energy, sound and visual spectacle of this quality production then gentlemen this tour definitely has legs, in more ways than one. To 11-10-14.

Jeff Grant

24-09-14

Classy moves in the Catskills

*****

PHEW! You will never see raunchy moves like this on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, but it’s ok in the theatre.

The stage version of the hit film is electric, packed with brilliant dancing to Kate Champion’s remarkable choreography, and of course there is a love story too.

Things get steamy in New York’s Catskill Mountains with doctor’s daughter Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and the holiday resort’s handsome dance instructor Johnny Castle, who is a magnet for all the girls.

Roseanna Frascona is totally convincing as innocent 17-year-old Baby whose family holiday moves up a gear when she stumbles into the staff quarters and spots the young people locked in sensual all-night dancing.

She is even more impressed by gyrating Johnny, and although they are worlds apart, they become dangerously close as he teaches her some of the stunning steps.

Gareth Bailey is superb as Johnny, and how the ladies in the audience love it when he strolls through the stalls to join Baby and lifts her high above his head. In the words of the song, ‘The Time of My Life’.

The sets are brilliant, particularly one where the pair practice their moves in what appears to be a real lake.

Dirty Dancing, close to a sell-out, runs to 11.10.14

Paul Marston 

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