Dirty Dancing - Bristol Hippodrome (dropbox.com)
    Dirty Dancing needs little introduction as it launches into
a Bristol run. An iconic film following the story of “Baby” Houseman and  her dancing teacher Johnny Castle. They meet
in 1960’s American summer camp where romance blossoms against a backdrop of
racism, social rules and the wholesome American dream. The show, as with the
film, features the hit songs 'Hungry Eyes', ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ and
the ever popular ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.’ 

From the outset it struggles with the insistence on copying
the film moment for moment rather than creating a stage adaption. The use of music
as backing tracks by the onstage band is monotonous and on the rare moments
that the characters sing the numbers do not extend the narrative and seem completely
out of place. The repetitive scene shifting denies any opportunity for
characterisation and it is ultimately far from satisfying.

Aside from the production decisions, the show is well cast
and the company work hard. The final moments are clearly the most impressive
when the show explodes with a song and dance routine that the show has lacked beforehand.
It is a long time to wait to see the full talent of this excellent company. The
audience respond to this well alongside any moments of suggested intimacy and
nudity with relish; often masking any opportunity for those onstage to create
credible characters or savour any real moments of drama.

The casting is strong. Michael O’Reilly (Johnny Castle) is
in fine form and well matched by Simone Covele (Penny Johnson) their routines
are fiercely impressive. Katie Eccles (Frances “Baby” Houseman) holds the
central role well. Colin Charles (Tito Suarez) is great fun and the onstage band
fit in well to the overall design.  

The set is practical yet the episodic and overly brief scenes
never allow us to fully engage with the characters. The show will no doubt
attract film fans wherever it plays. But ultimately this artistically thin and
underwhelming production is disappointing.

Petra Schofield