Dirty Dancing Review

Grand Opera House York – until Saturday 13th October 2018.

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

4****

The record breaking Dirty Dancing has hit York once again with its current tour. Everyone, well nearly everyone, knows the beloved film, set in the Catskill Mountains at Kellermans, in the summer of 1963. This classic tale revolves around Frances “Baby” (Kira Malou) and Johnny Castle (Michael O’Reilly making his professional debut) having the time of their lives, but did this excitable audience have the time of theirs?

Whilst we first met Baby and her family arriving at Kellermans, there was an eager anticipation within the audience, of predominately woman, waiting for their first glance of Johnny. We didn’t have to wait too long to see him dancing in his very, very tight trousers, much to the audience’s delight. I’m still convinced that he had borrowed them from someone else after having a wardrobe malfunction, they were that tight and just a wee bit too short, I digress…

Malou, complete with the mop of curly hair, plays Baby with a kooky sweet innocence, growing from awkward teenager into a confident young woman. O’Reilly certainly has huge shoes to fill, following in Patrick Swayze’s footsteps. It must be such a daunting prospect, especially considering this is his first professional role, but what an opportunity. At times during the first act I felt that he needed to put his own identity into his character and not try too hard to emulate Swayze, he just seemed a little stilted. By the second act O’Reilly was a lot more comfortable and was Johnny Castle, and then the chemistry between the two certainly sizzled.

The choreography throughout is exhilarating and mesmerising, performed with such enthusiasm by the talented cast. Simone Covele is wonderful as Penny, with those high kicks and oh what flexibility, you can’t take your eyes off her when she is dancing. Lizzie Ottley delivered a great comic turn as Lisa during her Hula Hana song, and had the audience in stitches.

There was a bit of an issue with the set, that saw the curtains come down for a short while, where we could hear hammers and drills in action. I believe this may be due to the York stage being one of the smaller stages on their run. There were a few hiccups during the performance and the cast amiably carried on. Even with these slight hitches the set was effective with moving buildings and rotating rooms.

Dirty Dancing is not really a musical, more a play with a bit of live singing, some recorded songs and quite a bit of superb dancing, some of it “dirty”. It is certainly a play to make you smile, I could feel myself grinning virtually the whole time. The audience appreciation of a very muscular O’Reilly, as Johnny, taking his shirt off and then bearing a naked bottom were sounds to behold, a whole lot of whooping and cat calling, not by me of course😊.

Dirty Dancing does not disappoint, what with “I’ve carried a watermelon”, “nobody puts baby in a corner” and that iconic lift. Try and catch it if you can and see if you can “have the time of your life”.

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