Loyal fans of the 1987 flick will be able to utter lines word-for-word throughout the dance-movie remake, as the script being used on stage directly parrots the film. Starting at the beginning, the scene is set with: 'That was the summer of 1963 – when everybody called me Baby, and it didn't occur to me to mind.' These classic, well-known lines continue to be uttered by actors – some closely resembling the original characters, others not so much – throughout the show.
The American accents are all over the place – often the case with an international cast – but distracting nonetheless. Both originally hailing from South Africa, Bryony Whitfield and Gareth Bailey, take on the roles of Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle, the parts played originally by Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze. While Whitfield’s accent did trip up a few times throughout the show, the close resemblance she holds physically – thanks to the perfect curls, petite frame and costumes that look as though they could have been pulled straight from the original set – made it easy to keep her in character. With fewer physical traits being shared and less believable accents, both Bailey, along with Capetonian dancer Mila De Biaggi playing Penny, fell into the roles less easily.
The set for this holiday romance, Romeo-and-Juliet story of social classes is told with an eight-piece live band, set up on a second-tier stage. Once the talented dancers get moving to the classic tunes being played, poor pronunciation can be put aside. The rotating set is able to represent a variety of scenes, including the staff-only quarters, dining hall and Johnny’s bedroom. One scene that did not transfer smoothly on stage was the classic lift practice in the field and lake, resembling somewhat an amateur lights show playing loosely with shadows. Hardcore fans will be happy to sing-along to their favourite hits, however with the lack of anything new being offered to the stage script, it is a bit like watching the film at home with 3D glasses and badly dubbed audio. Something, mind you, that a true Dirty Dancing devotee would be more than happy to do. Alexandra Karplus