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REVIEW: Dirty Dancing - The classic story on stage (UK Tour, Glasgow)

25 October 2023

King's Theatre, Glasgow


Dirty Dancing - The classic story on stage (Dance theatre, 2023 UK Tour)

In the summer of 1963, 17 year-old 'Baby' and her family arrive at Kellerman's resort for a holiday in New York's Catskill mountains. Baby discovers a raunchier side to the squeaky-clean resort when she stumbles across the staff quarters, and witnesses the scorching hot dance moves of the entertainment staff and of lead dance instructors Johnny and Penny. Soon launched into their darker world, Baby's summer holiday and her life change forever.

This is not musical theatre: how can it be when the two leads don't sing a note? Rather this show is a mix of storytelling, dance and music. To it's credit, nowhere in the marketing does the show claim to be a musical. It's a romantic drama, and it really is just like watching the iconic 1987 film played out live on stage. Some songs and scenes have been added, but all of the iconic moments and lines are here. Arguably, it's better to watch the spectacular dancing and drama unfold on a theatre stage than on a screen... But then I am biased; theatre always wins for me.

Although not musical theatre, there is plenty of great live music to be enjoyed. There are thirty-nine musical numbers in this show to be exact. Yes I counted! There is an excellent live band on stage with skilled musicians and singers backing much of the central action. Dirty Dancing has to have one of the best movie soundtracks of all time and so too the stage show is full of instantly recognisable hits like 'Hungry Eyes', 'Do you love me' and the song synonymous with the film, 'I've had the time of my life.' This production also features many original tracks from artists such as The Drifters and Marvin Gaye. It's a non-stop of parade of toe-tapping tunes.

Dirty Dancing - The classic story on stage (Dance theatre, 2023 UK Tour)

However the highlight of this show is of course the dancing. The sensational talent of the ensemble cast is evident from the opening number, with high-kicks and breath-taking moves setting the scene for what is to come.

At the performance I saw, the stunning lead dancer Penny was played by first-cover Daisy West. Her poise, her confidence, her dance skills are all exquisite; she nailed every single move with grace and flair. She truly is the dancer everyone aspires to be. And when paired with Michael O'Reilly's Johnny, the partnership is dance dynamite.

Michael O'Reilly is a fantastic Patrick Swayze, sorry, Johnny Castle. He struts across the stage with assured footwork and sass. Michael had the audience in the palm of his hands every second he was on stage. Looking uncannily like both Henry Cavill and Christopher Reeve, I'm sure Michael is destined to play Superman on screen one day; He has that imposing presence and charisma. But until then, he is the superman of the dancefloor at Kellerman's resort, and he is perfectly cast for the part.

Taking on the pivotal role of Baby, Kira Malou is impeccable as the shy-girl who 'carries a watermelon' and who dares to dance. Likeable, relatable but obviously brilliant, Kira neither over nor under played any scene... How difficult it must be to pretend to be unable to dance! But she hit every line, every move, every comedic facial expression perfectly and it was a joy to watch her perform. If there is a better 'Baby' out there, I'd love to see her.

Dirty Dancing - The classic story on stage (Dance theatre, 2023 UK Tour)

The staging of this show is simple but effective. The evening scenes with the table lights and the colours glowing across the water are particularly beautiful. But the transitions from the main resort, to the staff bar and quarters are all flawless. The whole technical side of the production is polished and well considered. A prime example of this is during the lift practice scene between Johnny and Baby in the lake. The staging and the actors cleverly and skilfully blend to make you believe they really could be in the water. It's brilliantly done.

With a truly excellent, large, ensemble cast, this is a company full of first-class actors, musicians, dancers and singers who all play their part to entertain. I do feel it is the correct decision not to make Dirty Dancing a musical; it would be distracting were the leads to burst into song. They are phenomenal dancers and performers telling a story, and that is enough. There are plenty of other great singers in the show. I did really enjoy the musical sequence of 'Yes!' performed by the phenomenal Lydia Sterling, followed by an equally great performance of 'In the still of the night' in the build up to the finale. The second half of Act II, the closing number "I've had the time of my life" and the finale are worth the ticket price alone. Pure showstopping, feel good nostalgia.

Debuting in London's West End in 2006 and since playing a number of sell-out UK and international tours and returning to London's west end, Dirty Dancing continues to be a sure-fire crowd-pleasing hit. It isn't going to change the world, but it knows what it is and it does it well. The scream that went around the auditorium when Johnny said 'Nobody puts baby in the corner' is testament to its enduring appeal and success. It's a fun night out and it certainly made my heart swell.

Dirty Dancing plays at The King's Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday 28th October and then continues to tour across the UK. Tickets are scarce! It's all but sold out. See latest availability and buy tickets here:

Dirty Dancing - The classic story on stage at Glasgow King's Theatre (Dance theatre, 2023 UK Tour) Photo: Lisa in the theatre

🌟 REVIEW: Dirty Dancing - The classic story on stage (Dance theatre, UK Tour, Glasgow)🌟

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.

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Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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