Dirty Dancing at Dominion Theatre
With nice choreography, pretty set designs and a few great songs, Dirty Dancing seems to be a neat show on the surface, living up to the commonplace – almost lazy – 1980s nostalgia craze. Sadly, its plot is as lightweight as a peanut and contains no more substance now than it did in 1987. Beyond its shiny exterior, viewers are left with an abyss of tired, idealised nonsense, yearning for a past that never really existed, and in doing that, it never manages to get over itself.
It’s quite a pity – it’s not like the 1960s, in which Dirty Dancing is set, contains a lack of themes or stories that could be set to music in an engaging way. The cast, too, are talented, but can only do so much to overcome a weary script and presentation that does nothing original. Even where the musical could have been interesting by incorporating novel costumes or significantly new choreography, it does nothing more than imitate the movie as closely as possible.
Thankfully, some of the music is enjoyable, especially when performed by Colin Charles as Tito Suarez. His stage presence puts him in the spotlight whenever he performs, turning some of this sulphur into gold. Kira Malou as the female lead also does her best to turn the ivory statue of Frances Houseman into a real woman, but, given the dialogue and the setting, she only ever manages to go so far. Her chemistry with Michael O’Reilly’s Johnny is also somewhat lacking, resulting in a curious combination that simply doesn’t work.
But it’s still the representation of an idealised past that frustrates the most. Dirty Dancing, both in 1987 and now, is as convincing as those strange ads in the US from the 1950s that floated in a trite reality of their own; it’s basically nostalgia for something absurdly unreal. The few nods to historical events and occasional ironic spins don’t change that fact, since it never engages with anything beyond its own contrived drama. Its own plot is nothing more than an excuse to move from one dance to another. Die-hard fans of the movie might be pleased, but others may wish to find different entertainment.
Photo: Mark Senior
Dirty Dancing is at Dominion Theatre from 2nd February until 16th April 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: