‘I’ve Had the Time of my Life’
The atmosphere felt like a girl’s sleepover as tons of women gathered to the Palace Theatre to see one of their teen classics, Dirty Dancing, take to the stage.
Like many women ‘of a certain age’ I too hold the movie dear in my heart, being about 13 or so when I saw it for the first time round my cousin’s house thinking we were naughty watching it as the title said ‘Dirty’. I fell in love with Patrick Swayze that day, as did millions of other pre pubescents, I wanted to be ‘Baby’… even if she did have a dodgy perm and dress sense to match!
Yes, for 2 and a half hours we were all transported back to Kellermans and the ‘Summer of 1963’ when a young naïve girl called Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman fell in love with a ‘hotter than hot’ dance instructor called Johnny during a family vacation…and also learnt some raunchy moves along the way!
The stage production is almost a carbon copy of the original movie-so much so that any die-hard fans would be able to know the next lines the actors are about to utter as they are taken word for word from the film. I found myself taking great pleasure in pre empting the ‘I carried a watermelon’ line, muttering it under my breath just before Baby did, although my husband (sitting next to me) thought my knowledge a little freaky.
The first half of the production took a while to get off the ground and it was only really when Johnny (Paul-Michael Jones) meets Baby (Emily Holt) that the action began to pick up pace. The set design and costumes looked as if they had come directly from the movie-plus the use of LED screens as a backdrop gave the show another cinematic feel as they projected images of the lake and Kellermans.
Jones has the perfect platform to show off the dancing skills he has been honing since the age of 11. His scenes with dilemma stricken dance partner Penny are nothing short of breathtaking-it’s a shame we didn’t get to see the same chemistry displayed with Holt as Baby.
Supporting actors Penny (Charlotte Gooch) and Billy(Thomas Aldridge) must be praised for their performances as it was clear that they made an impact onstage which at times outshone the main pairing. Gooch was strikingly beautiful as Penny, with moves that made you both jealous and totally in awe of her at the same time. She also gave the role the bite and emotion it needed…plus ‘pins’ to die for! Aldridge provided the comic element to the piece as ‘happy go lucky’ Billy, surprising the whole audience in the second half with his fantastic rendition of ‘In the Still of the Night’ which landed him a well deserved roar of whoops and cheers.
As you would expect there are a few spine tingling moments not to be missed – Johnny and Baby practising dance moves to ‘Hungry Eyes’ and them finally getting it on in Johnny’s cabin’ (which even managed to get the actor playing Johnny a little over excited as well as the audience).But the real anticipation came at the end when a hush descended on the crowd as they waited for Johnny to utter the immortal words…. ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’. It was worth the wait! The electricity in the auditorium at that point went through the roof and the audience erupted in unison, loving every minute of it.
On the whole Dirty Dancing is a show guaranteed to get you on your feet. If you fancy a ‘feel-good’ experience mixed with a splash of nostalgia and a sprinkle of sexiness this is for you.
The show runs at the Palace till the New Year – a great alternative to a Panto offering (oh no it isn’t…oh yes it is!)
Runs till January 7th 2012
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Booking Line:0844 871 7660