Dirty Dancing

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
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© Alastair Muir
© Alastair Muir
© Alastair Muir
© Alastair Muir
© Alastair Muir
© Alastair Muir

With a charm that lies somewhere between ’60s kitsch and ’80s soft-focus romance, the Patrick Swayze-starring 1987 film ‘Dirty Dancing’ remains a brilliant exercise in manipulating unseasoned female sexuality. The stage adaptation, penned by original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, ran for a record-breaking five years at the Aldywych from 2006 – mainly by sticking to the goofy lines and pelvic grinds we all knew by heart.

But how many times can you replicate the rush of first love? Sarah Tipple’s touring production of the show now returns to the West End to fill the gap left by flop Spice Girls musical ‘Viva Forever!’. And though still blessed with knicker-flashing choreography (worked by Kate Champion) and a cracking soundtrack (divided between a live band, some awkwardly directed cast vocals and the original recordings), this time around it’s more a case of temporary bunk-up than transformative love affair.

Scenes feel cursory and the cast’s energy is slightly end-of-season in this compact, projection-dependent staging. As the awkward teen blossoming in the hands of a renegade blue-collar dance instructor, Jill Winternitz’s Baby is knowingly cute, while Paul Michael-Jones’s fop-haired and faintly sneering Johnny looks a bit Bullingdon Club. Their initial encounters have all the sensual tension of a course of intensive driving lessons.

But a great performance by Emilia Williams as attention-craving older sister Lisa keeps the entertainment levels up. And by the time Johnny bounds through the stalls to rescue Baby from her corner to the strains of ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’, there's just enough adrenaline in the auditorium to make a triumph of that famous lift.

By Bella Todd

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

I expected it to be better, it was good but the scenes were just to rushed, although the singing and dancing was good and really enjoyed the ending.. Not dissapointed i went but wouldnt watch it again


I enjoyed the music and energy of the dancing, however, the actual acting felt fake and scenes seemed to end too abruptly giving no sense of realness to the emotions playing out on stage. Did not get the feel for the love story made famous by the movie we all know and love at all.


Being big fans of the film, my mum and I were very excited to watch this performance at the Piccadilly Theatre at the end of October 2013, but were left sadly disappointed by what felt like a very amateur production. It seems that the lead roles were cast for their dancing skills (which were fantastic, by the way) rather than their acting ability. The actress playing Baby was annoying whilst the actor playing Johnny shouted his way through his lines and there was little chemistry between them. The biggest problem seemed to the director's insistence on following the scenes (however short, in some cases) from the film, which meant that some lasted little more than 30 seconds and felt completely pointless. This also led to complicated staging with lots of scene changes which detracted from the actual love story which was supposedly playing out in front of us. There were moments, albeit few, that were funny but generally, we were laughing at them, not with them. The costumes were fabulous and the singing was, too - although it felt disjointed from the plot. At the end of the show, the actress playing Penny (who was a stunning dancer and possibly one of the best actors on the stage) got a far louder cheer and round of applause than either of the two leads. Sadly not West End quality.


Great performance and great story. It is really close to movie. It was better than I expect. 2,5 hours seem like a few minutes. I recommend this show to all. Not just dirty dancing fans :)


This was the highlight of our London trip. A very great performance. Ok, it was not Cats or Starlight Express and there was no difference to the cinema, but this was never the less a good decision. We are not native speakers and therefore we could follow the whole story phrase by phrase ( .. carry the water lemon..., Jonny has now books ...). Nothing was better to relax and become free minds. We press our fingers that the final is as exeeding as in the original, and it was. A very good job by the whole team. Thanks timeout for a safe organization.


We've enjoyed the show very much. The whole experience was very close to the movie which delivers everything what you expect - from the beginning to the end. Great entertainment!