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BWW Review: DIRTY DANCING, Richmond Theatre


A much-improved revival of the show is back on a new tour

BWW Review: DIRTY DANCING, Richmond Theatre

BWW Review: DIRTY DANCING, Richmond Theatre Dirty Dancing debuted on stage back in 2006. After numerous tours it is now back at Richmond Theatre, which has opened its doors for the first time in 559 days. The show is a faithful interpretation of the much-loved film following the story of 'Baby' Houseman as she spends a summer discovering love, sex and relationships at a 1960s holiday camp.

As with the film, change is in the air, with social norms and civil rights challenged, although these issues are not touched upon with any great depth. In a haze of nostalgia and sexual liberation, parts of the story remain questionable, but this revival is enormous fun.

As Johnny, Michael O'Reilly is back in the show where he made his professional debut. His dancing remains as skilful as ever and he has definitely evolved the character; there is more light and shade to his performance than in earlier tours, with a defined, more southern-American drawl and a vulnerability behind his swagger.

Kira Malou also returns to the show as Baby; a visual replica for the film's Jennifer Grey, although her wig makes her look like she's been dragged through a hedge. Her dancing is convincingly poor to start; as she blossoms, both in her dance skills and in her sexual awakening, she visibly flourishes on stage. The chemistry between Malou and O'Reilly has also improved markedly since the last outing.

Her sister Lisa is played with relish and good comic timing by Lizzie Ottley. Carlie Milner is an agile and sinuous dancer as Penny. Her acting is a little awkward, but she shows both a sexual magnetism and helplessness when her abortion goes wrong.

Baby's father Dr Houseman is touchingly portrayed by Lynden Edwards. His relationship with Malou is both tender and challenging and is the most convincing of all. Colin Charles is also confident and assured as Tito Suarez.

The music is key in this production. Amber Silvia Edwards is very good as Elizabeth. Her dynamic rendition of "Yes!" is full of energy and vitality. She is complimented by an incredibly likable Samuel Bailey, who gives a cheeky side to Billy; he shows an impressive falsetto in "In The Still Of The Night" and the pair are great during the iconic "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" during the show's finale.

The Kellerman's Band are on great form, frequently on stage as part of the action. It seems a missed opportunity to keep songs such as "Hungry Eyes" and "Hey! Baby" as pre-recorded tracks and it would have more immersive if they had been played live.

Fans of the film will love that it is so faithfully replicated, with the set cleverly morphing from the staff quarters at the resort to the stage at the Sheldrake hotel. The famous lake scene is given a cheeky irony and the awkward car scene where Johnny drives Baby back to the resort has thankfully been dropped.

The highly flexible ensemble dancers do incredibly well with the rather limited space of the Richmond theatre stage. Overall, this revival feels slicker, tighter and has more energy. If you like the film, you will love this production.

Dirty Dancing is at Richmond Theatre until 9 October, then touring

Photo Credit: Mark Senior

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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan