The Millennium Forum audience had the Time of Their Lives when Dirty Dancing took to the stage in front of a packed auditorium on opening night.
The film’s soundtrack may provide the heart beat for the production, but the dancing definitely provides the passion. Steamy at times – well, it’s not called Dirty Dancing for nothing – and tender at others, the stage show stays true to the original plot.
A story of friendships, heartache and romance crossing social divides, Dirty Dancing has been captivating audiences for the past 30 years and shows no signs of halting. With an auditorium spanning multiple generations, there was a party-like atmosphere in the room, as if a long lost friend had just returned. A story that has had a major impact in many people’s lives coming to life again right in front of their eyes.
With a new production team on board, directed by Federico Bellone, choreographed by Gillian Bruce, this current production seemed to be even more energised. The passion and intensity were duly complimented by the beautifully re-imagined design by set designer Roberto Comotti.
Set in 1960’s America, the story follows Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman as she holidays in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents.
Her boring summer with the family is turned on its head when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters where she is mesmerised by the dance moves on show. A far cry from those being taught in the resort’s highbrow dance classes.
Karl James Wilson takes on one of Pop Culture’s most iconic roles, ‘Johnny Castle’, previously made famous by the late great Patrick Swayze. No pressure there then. But in all honestly he pulls it off majestically, and going by the wolf whistles from the ladies in the audience, they were pleased with his performance too. He had the swagger, confidence and most importantly, the moves.
Joining Karl James in leading the line were Katie Hartland, making her musical theatre debut in the role of ‘Baby’, and Carlie Milner who returns to the production as ‘Penny Johnson’. There was an obvious chemistry between the three and watching Katie effortlessly making the progression of a gawky teenager to raunchy dancer, totally believable.
The energetic routines of the ensemble gave fuel to the lead characters, helping to provide a slick production that flowed with ease.
With such strong casting, this iconic story was in safe hands and ‘Baby’ even more so during the famous lift scene which had the audience in raptures and on their feet. After all, no-one puts Baby in the corner!