Review: Fans lap up Dirty Dancing on Northampton stage

Michael OReilly as Johnny and Kira Malou as Baby
Michael OReilly as Johnny and Kira Malou as Baby

Emily-Jane Clark reviews Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Super fans of the cult 1987 film Dirty Dancing will love the stage show on at the Derngate theatre this week

I am far from a super fan (teenage me made it halfway through the movie before switching it off to watch Grange Hill) but I did absolutely love the soundtrack so I was looking forward to seeing classic tunes such as Hungry Eyes and She’s Like the Wind performed on stage.

The production loyally tries to stick as closely as possible to the classic story of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, a teenager who falls in love with sexy dance teacher Johnny Castle during a family holiday to the Kellerman’s Resort.

However, it sometimes felt as though we were watching a weird sped-up version of the film, especially in the first half as they attempted to cover every scene. They even did a slightly bizarre recreation of the ‘dancing in the lake’ sketch using sound effects and a big screen that almost had me wondering whether this was in fact a spoof show (it isn’t).

But all of this just seemed to delight fans in the audience who mouthed enthusiastically along with all the familiar dialogue.

Although not many of the tracks were actually sung and performed musical-style like I was expecting, the dance numbers were fun to watch. The dancers were all outstanding and Millie Hood, who played Penny Johnson, was especially mesmerising on stage.

I imagine playing the part of Johnny Castle must be daunting for any actor as Patrick Swayze had such big shoes (and tight trousers) to fill but Michael O’Reilly does a pretty good job. His dancing was fantastic but I think his character may have been more engaging had he just played ‘Johnny Castle’ rather than tried to play Patrick Swayze playing Johnny Castle. That said, the fans absolutely loved him and his ‘bum shot’ got an even bigger cheer than the famous Time of My Life lift.

Kira Malou was also brilliant as the naïve ‘Baby’ but my favourite performer was Alex Wheeler as Billy Kostechi – his rendition of In The Still of The Night was one of my favourite performances of the show. Colin Charles (Tito) and Sian Gentle-Green’s (Elizabeth) also wowed the crowds with their outstanding singing and Kellerman’s Band were so good I’d go and see a show just featuring them.

Dirty Dancing was certainly one of the most memorable performances I have seen at the Derngate. Even the audience was entertaining as nestled among regular theatre goers were Baby Houseman lookalikes and even a teddy bear dressed as Patrick Swayze (seriously, it had it’s own seat and everything). And they must have had the time of their lives as they gave the show a standing ovation.

If you are looking for something a bit different, I would recommend going to Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage.

* The show runs until June 15. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk to book.