Theatre Review: Dirty Dancing


It’s one of the most successful movie-to-stage franchises, but did David Mullane have the time of his life at the musical version of Dirty Dancing?


It is simple to determine whether or not you will enjoy Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage or not. If you are a die-hard fan of the original 1987 film; if you had posters of Patrick Swayze plastered across your teenage bedroom walls; if you feel like the Baby of your family or if you still have your VHS copy of what some critics call ‘the Star Wars for girls’, then you will most certainly enjoy the show, which has returned to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre for the second time in as many years, such was the popularity and success of its initial run back in 2012.

If you’re not a fan of the film, then you may find it hard to see past the bare-bones set with its minimal props and overreliance on cheap video screens. You may also struggle to enjoy a musical where the protagonists never sing (the show is an almost-faithful reenactment of the film), and you may feel uncomfortable surrounded by hundreds of women cheering, whooping, whistling and downright gurning whenever Johnny (Gareth Bailey) appears onstage, takes his clothes off, kisses Baby or even looks in her direction.

Fans and non-fans alike must agree that the soundtrack is still as excellent as it was in 1987, mixing as it does wonderful tracks of the ’60s (‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Do You Love Me’) with some of the cheesiest songs the ’80s ever squeezed out (‘She’s Like the Wind’, ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘[I’ve Had] The Time of My Life’). Performed by a lively eight-piece band, the songs are the engine of the show, keeping momentum up when disappointing set pieces or clunky dialogue slow the proceedings.

The cast is populated by some terrific dancers and while their acting skills won’t win them awards any time soon, their dancing (and bodies) deserve accolades. Roseanna Frascona as Baby, in particular, is a facsimile of Jennifer Grey, from the hair to the tomboy gait to the clothes, and Penny’s (Claire Rogers) legs are the longest and lithest this reviewer has ever seen.

A full house at the show’s opening night, packed with thirtysomething women and a handful of their beleaguered heterosexual partners, almost exploded during the climactic final scenes. Dirty Dancing gives these audience members the time of their lives and who can argue with that?

Dirty Dancing runs at The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until July 26, booking here.



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