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Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Will you have the time of your life?
There are some great stage musicals. There are some dire stage musicals. And then there are the crowd-pleasers: cheesy and clichιd but guaranteed to attract audiences who leave the theatre feeling just a little better about life than when they entered.

Dirty Dancing is one of the crowd-pleasers. Following its third West End run the show, based on the 1987 film, is once again touring the UK. The plot remains thin and, when I saw it on press night at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre, some of the acting was not as polished as I'd expected. Yet there was a standing ovation at the end and whoops of delight from the mainly female audience. You can't argue with that.

Dirty Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Carlie Milner, Katie Eccles, Sophia Mackay, Michael Kent, Robert Colvin
No arguments: A standing ovation for Dirty Dancing


Originally opening at London's Aldwych Theatre in 2006, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage, had record-breaking advance ticket sales of £15 million, making it the fastest ever selling show in West theatre history at the time. It has since toured the UK twice, although, I'm informed by those who know their Dirty Dancing, this current version differs from previous incarnations and follows the film more closely.

The story is set in 1963 with the Houseman family – mum, dad and daughters Lisa and Frances, aka 'Baby' – on holiday at the American equivalent of Butlins in New York's Catskill Mountains.

Lisa and Baby are looking for love and Baby learns to dance. Along the way there are sub-plots about civil rights, infidelity, an illegal abortion and the peace corp.

Dirty Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Carlie Milner, Katie Eccles, Sophia Mackay, Michael Kent, Robert Colvin
Iconic: One of the film's famous scenes recreated


Scenes flash by rapidly, with sets rotating every few seconds. The actors dash on and off the stage, going up and down stairs, wheeling on tables, taking part in keep-fit routines and dance lessons. They really must be exhausted at curtain call.

It's a large cast and the Alex stage often seems too small for them all. The ensemble dance scenes are a little cramped. Carlie Milner as Penny Johnson, the ageing dance instructor whose liaison with one of the waiters has unwanted consequences, is the stand-out hoofer. An early routine with Johnny Castle (Robert Colvin) reminded me of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing – perhaps another reason for the popularity of the show.

Dirty Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Carlie Milner, Katie Eccles, Sophia Mackay, Michael Kent, Robert Colvin
Cramped: The stage is filled by the Dirty Dancing cast


Robert Colvin is the understudy for the lead role – the part is usually taken by Lewis Griffiths or Karl James Wilson. Robert can certainly dance and the ladies in the audience enjoyed seeing his almost naked body - but his acting skills are limited. His scenes with Baby are supposed to sizzle but they just fizzle. The chemistry's just not there.

Katie Eccles, as sweet and innocent Baby, had a difficult job. Obviously an accomplished dancer, she worked hard to make it appear she had no idea how to move on the dance floor as she is coached by Johnny.

Dirty Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Carlie Milner, Katie Eccles, Sophia Mackay, Michael Kent, Robert Colvin
Coaching: Baby is tutored by Johnny and Penny


The show boasts ''35 hit songs'' – a lot to fit into two hours. It was accomplished by featuring just snippets of some tunes, played over the PA. A shame because we missed out on hearing full versions of some great music. More successful were the songs performed by cast members. It would have been good to hear more from Michael Kent who played Billy Kostecki and Sophia Mackay (Elizabeth) who duetted on (I've Had) The Time of My Life. Great voices!

Dirty Dancing, New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham, Carlie Milner, Katie Eccles, Sophia Mackay, Michael Kent, Robert Colvin
Great voices: Sophia Mackay and Michael Kent


Dirty Dancing is at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday June 3, 2017.

Dirty Dancing 2017 UK tour dates:

Until June 3: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham;
June 12 – 17: Edinburgh Playhouse;
June 19 – 24: King's Theatre, Glasgow;
June 26 – July 1: Sunderland Empire;
July 3 – 8: Hippodrome Theatre, Bristol;
July 18 – 22: Palace Theatre, Manchester;
July 31 – August 5: Princess Theatre, Torquay;
September 5 – 9: New Victoria Theatre, Woking;
September 18 – 23: Liverpool Empire.
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Why? You'll have the time of your life
When: In Birmingham until June 3, 2017, then touring till September 23, 2017
Phone: 0844 871 3011
Where: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, then touring
Cost: £17.90 - £64.90 plus fees
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