IT may be a cliché to say I had the time of my life watching Dirty Dancing at the Bristol Hippodrome this week – however it doesn’t make it any less true.
Like most of the audience I have been a fan of the 1987 hit film, in which Johnny teaches Baby to dance leading to a romantic relationship, since the first time I watched Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray do that final lift.
This means that any actor attempting to portray those iconic parts has their job cut out for them if they don’t want to leave the audience feeling disappointed.
And I’m glad to say that when I left the theatre the only disappointment I felt was to do with the fact that the show was over.
Credit must be given to understudy Lewis Kirk who took on the role of Johnny Castle – a staggering feat for anyone considering who originally played the role.
However the moment he performed his first dance number the name Patrick Swayze was almost forgotten.
And by the time we reach the shirtless bedroom scene the audience is thinking Patrick who? While whistling and cheering as Johnny and Baby share their first kiss to Cry to Me.
Kirk’s portrayal of wrong-side-of-the tracks Johnny is balanced perfectly by Roseanna Frascona’s performance as awkward, naive daddy’s girl Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman.
Frascona’s physicality, look and mannerisms were uncanny in their similarity to Jennifer Grey – however she bought her own individual elements to the performance which only added depth to the character.
The portrayal of Johnny’s talented, confident and leggy dance partner Penny, played by Claire Rogers, was also outstanding.
For a character whose role is to be so mesmerising when she dances that couples will pay to learn to move like her – Rogers does an impeccable job and leaves the audience wondering how her long legs can reach that high.
For a show that deals with some very serious themes such as unplanned pregnancy and class and race issues in 1960s America, the frequent elements of comedy provided by Alexander Wolfe as the stuffy uptight grandson, Neil Kellerman, helped to maintain a fun and care free element to a story we know has a happy ending.
Baby’s sister Lisa’s awkward and tone-deaf song in the holiday camp talent show and Baby and Johnny practising that lift in the water, were also great comedic moments.
The water scene was a triumph for the director who decided to make fun of the obvious fact that the pair weren’t practicing in water and were instead appearing behind a translucent image of a lake.
Everything in the show, like in the film, led up to the final scene in which Johnny strutted through the audience and jumped on the stage to loud cheers and wolf-whistles before the audience fell silent to hear the line that epitomises Dirty Dancing: “Nobody puts baby in a corner”, which of course brought the house down.
And of course the final dance number and that lift kept the audience cheering, clapping and smiling all the way out of the theatre.
The show will run at the Bristol Hippodrome until April 5, with performances on Monday to Thursday at 7.30pm, on Friday at 5pm and 8.30pm and Saturdays 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
Tickets, priced £10-75, are available from the box office on 08448 713012 or www.atgtickets.com