BWW Reviews: DIRTY DANCING, Bristol Hippodrome, March 19 2014
Dirty Dancing is billed as 'the classic story on stage', and it doesn't disappoint in its promise, bringing the characters of the ever-popular 1980s film to life for audiences across the UK. Highbrow theatre this is not. However, if you're looking for a fun night out at a show which doesn't take itself too seriously yet still delivers some wonderful dancing, well-loved tunes and a full dose of hip swaying, then Dirty Dancing is the show for you.
The Bristol Hippodrome was bedecked in pink in celebration of the arrival of Dirty Dancing, which only seemed to excite the already-eager theatre patrons further. Roseanna Frascona as Frances 'Baby' Houseman opened the show and set the scene for the evening. Frascona was convincing as the somewhat naïve future Peace Corps member who is the apple of her father's eye, and was delightfully awkward in her movements prior to learning to dance with hotel heartthrob Johnny Castle. However, I did feel that she lacked a certain passion and energy in the latter part of the show when Baby's world is turned upside down and she learns more about life outside of her protective family cocoon.
At this particular performance, Johnny was played by understudy Lewis Kirk, who not only looked the part, but also managed to make the character his own while not straying too far from Patrick Swayze's much-loved interpretation. Kirk made Johnny believable, and delivered his many potentially cheesy lines with surprising conviction and heart. Several classic phrases from the film drew explosive cheers and whoops from the audience, while Johnny's topless appearance instigated a spate of girlish giggles and wolf whistles which swept across the auditorium. Kirk was a strong dancer, and commanded the stage with his swagger.
Johnny's dance partner and ex-lover Penny Johnson was played by the statuesque Claire Rogers, whose fluid movement was impressive to watch. She captured the essence of Penny, a strong, determined woman who is crushed and finds herself in an extremely difficult situation as a result of misplaced trust in resident womaniser Robbie, played with a dash of sleaze and venom by Francis Haugen.
The ensemble cast were full of enthusiasm and fun, and the two lead singers delivered their songs with vim and vigour. Special mention goes to Sarah Cortez as feisty redhead Vivian Pressman, whose movement and energy was a delight to watch, particularly during the show's final scenes. James Coombes and Julia J. Nagle as Dr and Mrs Houseman made a delightful couple who reignite the long-lost spark of young love, while Mark Faith extracted a fair few laughs as eccentric wallet thief Mr Schumacher.
A broken piece of furniture added an extra sprinkle of amusement to the evening, though the iconic lake scene undoubtedly produced the biggest burst of laughter. I would say it has to be seen to be believed, and unfortunately I don't mean that in the David Copperfield sense! I genuinely couldn't quite tell whether the actors themselves realised how hilarious the scene looked, but I assume they must have, as on a scale of one to cheese, this was a seriously gloopy, extra-thick fondue! Having said that, its quirk and humour somehow succeeded in drawing the crowd in further.
Is Dirty Dancing a groundbreaking piece of theatre? No. Are the story and set complex and cutting-edge? No. Is it a fun show that feeds its audience a welcome slice of nostalgia with a lovely burst of humour and energy and a generous portion of hip-swaying action? Most certainly. If you love the film and fancy a night of 1960s tunes and swoons, then head on down to the Bristol Hippodrome and grab a ticket.
Dirty Dancing is playing at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 5 April.