Based on the famous 1978 film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey as Johnny, the summer camp dance instructor and Baby, the girl who falls for him this musical stage version directed by Frederico Bellone has come back in to town for a season after being on tour. It was, of course, the year of Grease and Hollywood did have a tendency to make the same sort of pictures aimed at a specific audience.
Judging by the press night audience most of them had seen it before, no suprise as in various productions it has had a long run in the West End over the years, so it was a case of meeting old friends and they greeted each plot development with the rapture of those recognising what it was that they liked in the first place. At the end were on their feet cheering and doing on the spot dancing like crazy. In other words they had had the time of their lives. For me it was one of the most dispiriting evenings in the theatre I have spent in a very long time.
To be fair the cast was well drilled although they delivered the lines in incomprehensible fake American accents with all the subtlety of robots which made the plot hard to follow, except that all one really needed to know is that Baby goes to bed with Johnny who takes his shirt off a lot to loud applause. In fairness Michael O’Reilly, who plays Johnny, has a torso to die for and as a bonus we even got a glimpse of his bare bottom when he got out of bed with her. It looked as firm as his torso, a full rectal as opposed to a full frontal.
There is really not a lotmore to be said. The songs come and go, some sung by the cast, others recording by assorted singers of distinction, although the mix is rather uncomfortable, while the eight dancers work very hard trying to make it look as if there were more of them than there are.
Kira Malou is a sweet and incredibly innocent Baby and Michael O’Reilly smouldered away as Johnny for ever tossing his raven locks which seemed well lacquered as they did not stir no matter how much he might gyrate – he has a great pelvic thrust. In due course he lifted her up on high just like Swayze did in the movie. As for the film’s Oscar winning song – I’ve had the time of my life – it is saved for Johnny’s return from being sacked. He charges in through the audience to loud applause – everyone has been waiting for it to happen, leaps on stage, announces that nobody puts Baby in a corner where she has been sitting with her parents, and the pair of them duly dirty dance.
The show has been on the road for years and really should have run out of road by now. Why three stars? Well the cast worked its collective butt off. The audience loved it. You need to take all that into account. It was a truly terrible production but that was not their fault and the audience was living on past memories.
Frances Baby Houseman:Kira Malou.
Johnny Castle: Michael O’Reilly.
Penny Johnson: Carlie Milner.
Tito Jarez Colin Charles.
Neil Kellerman:Thomas Sutcliffe.
Marjorie Houseman: Lori Haley Fox.
Lisa Houseman: Lizzie Otley.
Dr Jake Houseman:Lynden Edwards.
Max Kellerman:Michael Remick.
Mr Schumaker:Mark Faith.
Billy Kostecki:Samuel Bailey.
Director: Frederico Bellone.
Set Design: Roberto Comotti.
Choreographer: Austin Wilks.
Lighting Design: Wilfrid Tiberi.
Music Supervisor: Conrad Helfrich.
Sound Design:Armando Vertullo.
Supervising Musical Director:Richard John.
Costume Designm: Jennifer Irwin.
Production photographs: Mark Senior.