The browning leaves may be falling all around us as the autumn chill begins to set in, but mentally, it’s the summer of 1963 at Kellerman’s Resort – where the only worries are whether the pool is warm and the crab sticks are fresh, as opposed to the present day Brexit/pandemic/BoJo concerns. Or, at least, that is the case right now at Hull New Theatre.
It’s bleak outside, but you wouldn’t know it by the smiles of anticipation on the crowd that awaits outside of the stalls. Honestly, we all may as well be wearing ra-ra skirts and pin curls in our hair – and that’s really not a bad thing.
A wave of nostalgia is about to flood over the theatre in the form of Dirty Dancing – live on stage for the first time ever in East Yorkshire, and there’s not a single soul in the queue who isn’t gossiping in suspense.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly dubious about what was about to take place, but luckily for me – a lifelong fan of the internationally adored movie – I was in pretty damn good hands.
Led by a cast of West End frequents – including Kira Malou (Fame, School Hacks) as Baby and Michael O’Reilly (West Side Story, Lord of the Flies) as Johnny – the show kicks off with a musical spectacle, taking inspiration from the film’s intro, Be My Baby by The Ronettes, and setting the Mambo-charged tone for the rest of the show.
Remaining faithful to its source material, the audience is hooked from the get-go with familiarity, a comforting sign that – old fan or new – not a single body in the audience will be leaving disappointed by this stage adaptation.
Clever set design continues with this theme, transporting audiences to Kellerman’s resort with subtle nods reminiscent of the 1987 film, such as mountain lake views, white picket fencing, and, of course, the bright red neon that oozes debauchery at the secret Miller nightclub.
And it’s not just the aesthetics that bring a certain level of sentiment, either. Eagle-eyed fans will notice some familiar (and now iconic!) moves throughout the show, providing a number of Easter Eggs to look out for and re-live along the way. That trend comprises quotes, too, which sees theatre-goers mouthing in delight as the show goes on.
Despite the adaptation’s heavy familiarity, it’d be wrong of me to say that it didn’t bring its own edge of originality. In fact, Dirty Dancing on the stage holds a card close to its chest that the classic misses entirely: a personality.
Bringing a glowing spotlight to a number of characters who lucked out in the movie, the stage show benefits from adding much-desired traits to a number of roles that allow the actors to connect with the audience in a whole new way, with both Baby and her sister, Lisa receiving the comedy treatment.
Utterly hilarious in parts, Malou’s Baby becomes naive and sassy in a manner that even dry-humoured Jennifer Grey couldn’t achieve, becoming an absolute delight for audiences to join on Frances Houseman’s journey.
The impressive casting doesn’t end there, either, with O’Reilly’s Johnny Castle paying homage to Patrick Swayze with not only his heavy dose of crowd-pleasing sex appeal, but his part Southern-part West Coast accent and burly stature, too.
It’s expected of the character, which has been immortalised by Swayze, but it’s clear that O’Reilly goes above and beyond to bring an essence of the deceased legend with him along the way, something that members of the audience would have dearly missed otherwise.
Complemented by soundtracked scenes from the films and live musical numbers – including a highly entertaining rendition of Otis Redding’s Love Man which reels audiences back in with a hip thrust and an oomph after a short intermission – the atmosphere at Dirty Dancing is unbeatable, with no scene complete without an awe-inspired ooh, a celebratory woo or a hearty round of applause.
Living up to (and actually exceeding, in my case) expectations in all manners, Dirty Dancing entertains, delights and surprises even the most seasoned of audiences with its energetic choreography, smile-inducing script and hilarious quips – and actually, I’d go as far as saying it’s (almost) as perfect as the original, iconic film that pulled us all to Hull New Theatre last night.
Dirty Dancing continues to tour the UK for the remainder of the year, with limited shows taking place this week at Hull New Theatre, and dates still available for its Bradford run in November. Get tickets here.
[Featured image: Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage]