DIRTY DANCING: Birmingham till 25 August, then touring

DIRTY DANCING: Classic Story on stage: by Eleanor Bergstein
One interval
Birmingham Hippodrome till 25 August, and touring

Review: Alexander Ray, Hippodrome Birmingham

Good reasons for a show having such staying power.

DIRTY DANCING is a classic rite-of-passage story; protected middle-class and wealthy Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to move from blissful innocence into adulthood – from ‘Baby’ to ‘Frances’. Frances is intellectually a modern young woman and her journey happens in an archetypal all-American setting. But DIRTY DANCING is set in the 60s; Frances’s journey parallel’s America’s coming of age.

Frances falls for the ‘bad-guy’ Johnny Castle, an opportunist dancer. But, as if the way with romantic fiction, all ends happily although it constantly looks as if it won’t. Jill Winternitz and Paul-Michael Jones (Frances and Johnny) make the story work; they do it through the open-hearted honesty of their playing. They draw us into their story and we are happy to invest our emotions.

The first half sequence when Johnny teaches Frances to dance is both funny and touching. We wait for their show-piece dance at the end and it’s worth waiting for. Should we doubt our investment in the show, just experience the loud cheer with which Johnny, retuning to partner Frances is the end-of-hol talent show, is rewarded when he speaks the iconic line: ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner.’

A tight ensemble ensure the show never flags, and all is supported with a terrific band.

Feel-good, without a doubt, but serious themes are given fair weight – honesty, freedom, equal rights. If only times were as simple now as it seems they were then . . . but is that donning those rose-tinted specs!?

Frances ’Baby’ Houseman: Jill Winternitz
Johnny Castle: Paul-Michael Jones
Penny Johnson: Nicky Griffiths
Tito Suarez: Colin Charles
Dr Jake Houseman: James Coombes
Neil Kellerman: Stefan Manaul
Marjorie Houseman: Julia Nagle
Max Kellerman: Michael Remick
Billy Lostecki: Wayne Smith
Mr Schumanacher: Tony Stansfield
Lisa Houseman: Emilia Williams
Sing/Dance Captain: Vanessa Campbell
Swing: Jonathan Cordin
Ensemble / Jordan: Lewis Davies
Swings: Ben Harris, Rebecca Hodge, Faisal Khodabukus, Philip Marriott, Jenny Wickham
Ensemble / Robbie Gould: Callum Nicol
Ensemble / Elizabeth: Rosa O’Reilly
Ensemble / Moe Pressman: Adam Philpott
Ensemble / Vivian Pressman: Kate-Emma Portlock
Ensemble / Cathy: Lizzie Stavrou
Ensemble: Will Tyler, Tara Verloop

Director: Sarah Tipple
Choreographer: Kate Champion
Set Design: Stephen Brimson Lewis
Music Supervisor: Conrad Helfrich
Lighting Design: Tim Mitchell
Sound Design: Bobby Aitken
Video and Projection Design: Jon Driscoll
Sotume Design: Jennifer Irwin
Ballroom and Latin Choreographer: Craig Wilson
Musical Staging: Michael Ashcroft
UK Associate Choreographer: Glenn Wilkinson
Musical Director: Tom Deering:

2012-07-12 10:53:51

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