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BWW Review: DIRTY DANCING, Edinburgh Playhouse

The stage adaptation of the iconic 1987 film, Dirty Dancing premiered at London's Aldwych Theatre in 2006 and ran for nearly five years, before embarking on a first UK tour. This new touring production primarily stays loyal to the original, albeit with enhanced special effects and some revised choreography.

It's the summer of 1963, and 17 year-old Frances 'Baby' Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing. On holiday in New York's Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, she shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters.

Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can't wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle, the resort dance instructor. Her life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny's leading lady - both onstage and off.

Whilst the publicity material promises '35 hit songs', the actual number of full-length numbers which are sung live here is closer to five. In a majority of cases, snippets of songs (often short) are introduced at the relevant parts of the action - they certainly fit, and enhance, the stage action, but it serves as a reminder that this is not a musical in the traditional sense.

The story is played out faithfully on stage (as suggested by the title), but at times there can seem quite a long spell from one set-piece to another. "Hungry Eyes" makes the audience collectively sit up towards the end of the first half, and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" is included in both halves, but "In the Still of the Night" also garners deserving applause, partly because it's practically the only point in the production where the focus is almost solely on the vocals.

The three principals do not disappoint. Lewis Griffiths (Johnny Castle) and Katie Eccles ('Baby') are both instantly identifiable in their roles, whilst it is Carlie Milner (Penny Johnson) whose dancing particularly stands out, particularly in the early scenes of the production.

Unlike many stage adaptations of films, there are no new songs here, but the choreography is the real star, and GillIan Bruce's attention to detail, together with Roberto Comotti's set design, leads to memorable moments. The scenes where Johnny teaches Baby to dance in a field of grass and then in an expansive lake are - if anything - even more impressive than they were in London, due to clever use of translucent projected images and coordinated sound effects.

For those who are fans of the movie, this production will not disappoint.

Dirty Dancing runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 17 June, and continues on UK Tour.

Read our interview with Lewis Griffiths

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From This Author Gregor Dickson