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REVIEW: Dirty Dancing at Wycombe Swan Theatre

Back by popular demand is the evergreen tale of summer love, coming of age, hipster kids making their mark and not putting Baby in a corner.

Still as popular today as it was back in 1987, the story of daddy’s girl Baby and wrong side of the tracks Johnny has been adapted from the movie into a hugely successful touring show.

Fans of the film will of course know this, but, to recap, it’s the summer of 1963. The Houseman family are vacationing at Kellermans – a resort for the wealthy offering everything from golf to mambo lessons. In a time of rock ‘n’ roll and the civil rights movement, owner Max Kellerman laments on how the format is dying – the youth of ‘today’ wanting more excitement than wet weather games of Simple Simon.

Enter dance instructor Johnny Castle with his out-there moves and need to shake things up. Baby witnesses these moves when she carries a watermelon (!) into the staff quarters and sees dancing. Dirty dancing.

Movie diehards won’t be disappointed with this production – the script is pretty much word for word the same as the film (I was of course mouthing along). The story moves at a frenetic pace to capture all the nuances – the rain, the log dancing scene and of course the famous water ‘lift’ are accomplished with clever use of video screen.

The revolving set takes us from Kellerman’s to the staff quarters and Johnny’s room – for THAT scene. A slight technical hitch on the night didn’t detract.

The story is moved along with a cracking score, mostly performed by Kellerman’s excellent swing band, singing staff and a few records. It shouldn’t work, but it does, featuring songs such as Hungry Eyes, (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life and Do You Love Me?

The real stars are of course the dirty dancers themselves, serving up amazing routines of daredevil lifts, drops and intimate moves (it’s steamy, be warned!) Simone Covele, who plays baby-on-board Penny really stands out with her sky-high pins and sexy moves. Another stand-out is Lisa, Baby’s goofy sister, played by Lizzie Ottley. She gives a hilarious hula performance I won’t forget in a hurry!

Baby and Johnny are both admirably played by Kira Malou and ­­Michael O’Reilly, who does have a touch of Patrick Swazye about him for sure. It was hard to feel the connection between the two however, despite some steamy scenes. Johnny, to me, comes across as a bit of a shouty grump who just happens to have it in the mambo department. But maybe that’s enough!

It certainly was for the audience, who were delirious by the time Baby came out of the corner.

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