Watching the classic 80s film Dirty Dancing on video will forever remain etched into my teenage years, so when the chance arose to see the iconic love story transferred to stage I thought I was already on to a winner.
But how would the character’s chemistry = Johnny Castle - the smouldering hot dance teacher hired for the summer season to ‘show the daughter’s a good time’ and fearlessness of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman - ‘who wants to change the world’ and join the Peace Corps - be carried over on to the stage?
As the curtain lifted and ‘Baby’ - played by Roseanna Frascona - appeared on stage with her petite frame and her ‘hungry eyes’, I knew I was going to have the ‘Time of My Life’.
For those who aren’t au fait with the script the show is set in America in 1963 and sees different worlds of Baby and Johnny collide amidst the lawn games, and of course dance lessons, at traditional holiday park Kellerman’s.
The scenes are filled with flashes of disco-infused lights, characters’ own strong stage presence and excellent vocals.
Johnny - Gareth Bailey - captures the chemistry of his film counterpart the late Patrick Swayze - and his tall and muscled physique lends itself to the role as a naturally strong lead character.
The dancing throughout the show is sexy and hot. Bronzed legs and toned arms are aimed towards the heavens with alarming ease throughout a tantalising medley of testosterone fuelled numbers.
The choreography by Kate Champion is fantastic throughout. The orchestra - elevated high above the stage - provided powerful uplift to much-loved tracks “Hungry Eyes”, “Hey Baby”, and the heart stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”.
The plot covers strong themes about class and family head-on. Baby asks her father Dr Jake Houseman to trust when she asks for money to help dancer Penny ‘who got into trouble’ with college boy Robbie.
But when Penny’s operation goes pear-shaped Baby again turns to her father for help, who wrongly believes Johnny is responsible for the ‘indiscretion’.
A key part in the show is when Baby steps into Penny’s dancing shoes but during rehearsals for the show, the famous ‘lift’ scene in the water, failed to transfer to the stage.
The pair were ‘spotlit’ behind a superimposed lake scene - complete with gushing water sound effects.
A shriek from one woman in the audience said it all. The scenery had taken over the story and left a crucial scene of the classic developing love story lost in a comical charade.
That said, overall the full ensemble packed in the punches and delivered a show stopping finale as Johnny returns to dance with Baby and utters the famous line ‘Nobody puts Baby in the corner’.
Cue, ‘I’ve Had The Time of My Life’ music as Baby is then catapulted (or really just lifted) by Johnny’s strong arms into the graceful swan position - much to the audiences admiration.
Overall the show was a toe tapping medley with cringe worthy humour but gives off the ‘feel-good factor’ in bucket loads.
The show is touring nationally and will run at Leeds Grand until Saturday December 6. For tickets go to www.leedsgrandtheatre.com/Online/dirtyDancing