The much-loved and well-known Dirty Dancing has sashayed its way to The Liverpool Empire, much to the eagerly awaiting audiences delight.
We are taken back to the summer of 1963 into Kellerman’s resort in a stage adapted touring production, directed by Federico Bellone.
The audience are immersed into an evening of romance and lust, with show stopping dance numbers and classic hits such as Be My Baby, She’s Like The Wind, Hey Baby, Do You Love Me to name just a few.
The main love birds – Jonny played by Michael O’Reilly and Kira Malou as Baby – are finally introduced after a much awaited encounter, a tense and steamy meeting in the underground dance club. After a sudden unfortunate turn of events Baby, a shy out of rhythm holiday goer, offers to take partner Penny’s place for the end of season dance number, much to an initially reluctant Jonny.
We watch as throughout the production their chemistry begins to blossom, and the comic, yet saucy dancing between the pair really begins to get in to full swing. Baby in the first half appears to be more awkward and naive than in the film, especially in comparison to that of his previous dance partner Penny, who sauntered around the stage with her eye catching dance moves and powerful stage presence. This does however, change in dynamics through the second half as we see Baby ooze a new found confidence and sexuality, offering a more rebellious attitude and a more mature connection between herself and Jonny.
Most of the production stayed true to the film, playing homage to the renowned numbers and songs that are much loved and recognised. There were however, some shorter scenes meaning that pivotal moments lacked their original tension and grittiness and were instead presented in a more comical, humorous way. This was even more emphasised through over-the-top projections that the actors performed amongst throughout many scenes. It is hard to say whether this took away from the original film, or whether it actually added a new interpretation and dynamic to the already brilliant moments. Either way, the audience certainly seemed to appreciate the comedy presented before them, especially in the famous ‘water lift scene’.
The set throughout the production was versatile and adaptable, a credit to set designer Andrea Comotti. With no dramatic changes (aside from the projections) a revolving 3 part set provided the necessary scene changes whilst giving the audience a chance to separate the more intimate moments from the lively upbeat ones – a crucial tool in watching the relationship between Baby and Jonny develop.
Simone Covele as Penny Johnson, Jonny’s trusted friend and original dance partner, effortlessly performed challenging and risky choreography to an incredibly high standard, drawing in everyone’s attention every time she the entered the stage. Michael O’ Reilly played homage to a ‘cheeky chappy’, ladies man, which was overall strongly performed. After all, living up to the reputation of the one and only Patrick Swayze must be a hard act to follow. This did not however, seem to phase Simon Covele, who played a crucial part in the delivery of tension in the story-line as well as chemistry between characters. The cast as a whole were strong, and the dancing/ choreography were impeccable, very true to the film and provided just the right amount of raunchiness, a credit to choreographer Gillian Bruce.
Nearer the last part of the second half, audiences were treated to even more upbeat choral dance routines, excellent vocals and of course, the much anticipated final dance between Jonny and Baby. This section gave a chance for both performers to really show off their skills, which had the audience gleaming, clapping, cheering, and of course singing along to (I’ve Had) The Time If My Life, which was, a truly breathtaking moment, especially when he finally lifted her into the air.
Dirty Dancing is the perfect night out for fans of the original movie, or for those who haven’t seen it (if such people exist!) a fun filled night of laughter, dance and overall entertainment. Dirty Dancing is showing at the Liverpool Empire from 06/05/19 to 11/05/19 before continuing its UK Tour and it is certainly not one to miss!
Review by Laura Mutch