Review: Dirty Dancing, Theatre Royal
HOLLYWOOD meets the West End in this picture perfect adaptation of the memorable '80s movie.
Director Sarah Tipple and her team have ingeniously given the story 3D life with the use of video backdrops to create scenes which might seem impossible on stage.
Odd couple Johnny Castle, the strutting dance instructor at Kellerman's summer camp in upstate New York, and gawky teenager 'Baby' Houseman practice their steps on a huge log, in a field of corn... even that groundbreaking lake sequence is included.
Paul Michael-Jones injects just the right amount of Swayze swagger into his performance which is packed with high-energy, risk-taking dance routines that could easily elevate him to the professional ranks of Strictly.
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And of course, he also has to act. He handles the angst and tenderness of his various relationships with studied calm and confidence.
The story revolves around the unlikely romance between gigolo Johnny and Baby, a feisty kid with strong opinions and a real sense of right and wrong.
She steps in to replace Johnny's regular partner Penny (Nicky Griffiths), who has to deal with the problem of an unwanted pregnancy, but that means Baby has to learn dance steps that are both complex and dangerous.
Played to a soundtrack of instantly recognisable '60s hits, there are all sorts of sub-plots going on around them, raising the burning issues of the time: free love, abortion, racism, civil rights and Martin Luther King speeches.
RADA-trained American actress Jill Winternitz who plays Baby, is something of a discovery. A powerful voice emerges from her slight frame and she effortlessly holds centre stage as she transforms from out-of-step duckling into a mambo star.
Around the central duo is an excellent cast who dance their hearts out, while the actors cope impeccably with an alien accent.
James Coombes, still recognisable as the Milk Tray man, is particularly strong as Baby's father. And Nicky Griffiths as lead dancer Penny is simply sensational. All strands lead to the iconic finale as Johnny, sacked over his liaison with Baby, storms into the end-of-season bash, grabs her hand and delivers the classic line "No one puts Baby in a corner", before they deliver a dance worth tens across the board.
The predominantly female audience whooped, whistled and hollered... for a moment I thought we were at Old Trafford. The show is on until March 2.