Kira Malou as Baby and Michael O'Reilly as Johnny. Picture: Alastair Muir

Dirty Dancing

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


In an auditorium full of already converted, die-hard fans it is never going to be difficult to please such a loyal following, most of whom are here to witness the sexual chemistry between our writhing heroes, Johhny and ‘Baby’ and, seemingly, to whoop at any suggestion of raunchiness,

Apart from reluctant husbands and partners, the mostly female audience resembled a hen night intent on having some fun on a cold November evening.

The movie, providing a perfect vehicle for the sizzling hot property that was Patrick Swayze, of course, paved the way for a stage version. Hard dancing shoes to fill but nothing that a bit of strutting eye candy in tight trousers can’t pull off.

While there is no doubting the choreographic appeal of this show, the problem lies in the story.

It feels somehow under developed. Characters are not allowed to grow beyond briefly scripted glimpses resulting in no real desire for an audience to invest in them. Essentially, it’s a parade of musical numbers (all perfectly pleasant and evocative of the era) punctuated by short scenes that do little to hold the interest.

At times, there is joy and genuine excitement, Michael O’Reily sets the largely female audiences hearts racing and gets regular whooping approval as dance tutor, Johnny Castle, No doubting his athletic and ‘ six pack ‘ credentials though at times his diction and projection lets him down, Mike issues on the opening night didn’t really help either.

Credit is due for something I have never witnessed in a production before . . . a line of script getting a round of applause, ‘No one puts Baby in the corner‘ has become such an iconic sentence that even its utterance sends the fans into rapture.

The same goes to for the eagerly anticipated moment when Baby is held aloft by Johnny during the stand out song (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. Fine moments . . . just a shame there aren’t more.

Kira Malou gives a thoughtful, gentle performance as ‘Baby’  Houseman, gradually turning from nervous, awkward pupil to equally proficient dance partner under the tutelage of Johnny Castle. I did feel a touch disappointed that she went the way of countless others before her and succumbed to his lustful charms but then again dance does seem to bring out the devil in people. The curse of Strictly is clearly nothing new.

Dirty Dancing is what it is and delivers exactly what is expected, The memorable moments, set in stone by a hugely popular movie, are faithfully recreated and there is little doubt that the loyal fans revel in it all.

A competent and faithful version of a show that shows little sign of slowing down. To 10-11-18.

Tom Roberts


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