Before I begin, I’ll let you know that I’ve never seen the film Dirty Dancing. In some ways this makes my review pretty impartial, because I’m judging the show based purely on the merits of its musicality and artistic credibility alone. This also means I have none of the sycophantic nostalgia to bolster my opinions of a show that doesn’t have a lot of plot and relies on the classic movie moments far too much.
The plot is essentially about the naive Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, who learns to dance when she finds out Penny (played beautifully with impeccable dancing by Millie Hood) is pregnant and can’t take part. As she learns to dance with the cocky lothario Johnny Castle, the pair fall in love and end up having the time of their lives…
Unfortunately Katie Eccles as Baby plays the role like a fool who has two left feet at first – hardly the sort of slick mover a man like Johnny Castle would fall for. Michael O’Reilly plays the role of leading man with a sickly slickness, and there’s no doubting his dancing abilities even if his acting isn’t perfect. There’s not much of a connection between the pair at all – and their sexy moments seem almost comical.
If you love dancing then this is without a doubt the show for you. The ensemble cast and Millie Hood lead some incredible routines and there’s no doubting the team’s talents. However, with not a lot of plot to hang the show on and a lot of clunky acting moments this wouldn’t rank as one of my favourite shows.
Hats off to the members of Kellerman’s Band, who play music live throughout, as they really give the show some much needed pizazz. The rest of the production is a tad underwhelming, with the set (designed by Andrea Comotti) sometimes very obviously moved by hand by the cheeky stage elves who awkwardly appear on stage a couple of times during the performance.
The show relies, quite rightly, on some pretty epic dancing and if you appreciate clever moves and fancy footwork then you’ve come to the right place. For me, however, I need a little more emotion and plot to really feel invested in a show like this one.
Catch Dirty Dancing at Leeds Grand Theatre until 17th August 2019.
Photography credited to Alastair Muir