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Dirty Dancing, New Theatre Cardiff – Review

Thanks to the New Theatre, Cardiff for inviting us along to see the show in exchange for this review.

That was the summer of 1963… Set in a time when everything was on the brink of change, Dirty Dancing takes you on a summer that you’re bound to remember.

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When Dirty Dancing officially came to the big screen in 1987, it encountered a gulf of enthusiasm and became a global sensation. Ever since the summer romance between Baby and Johnny has become a classic that is loved by generations.


I highly doubt that anyone is unfamiliar with this cult classic, but just to be safe, here’s a quick summary: Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman and her family visit a holiday resort at Catskills in the summer of 1963. Quite early on she meets the resort’s dance teacher Johnny, who enlists her as his new dance partner. While Johnny teaches Baby to dance, the two grow closer and closer and quickly fall in love.

As it is one of the most-watched romances on screen, it comes of no surprise that Eleanor Bergstein took the plunge and brought the classic story to life. By adopting the film into a musical, she brings the story to the present, where Dirty Dancing fans see the love story unfold right in front of them. Probably because the film is such a hit, the musical stays very close to the original; re-enacting famous scenes and classic lines (“Nobody puts Baby in a corner”) throughout.

Kira Malou (Baby) Michael O’Reilly (Johnny); Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage; Photo credit: Alastair Muir

Bergstein smartly tackles scenes such as Baby and Johnny practicing the renowned lift at Lake Lure with humour. Aware that the stage cannot be transformed into a lake for such a short time, a stage curtain projecting the lake is introduced and sets the scene. As Kira Malou (Baby) and Michael O’Reilly (Johnny) repeatedly pretend to fall into the water, the audience cannot help but appreciate the comedy effect.

I do believe that the actors had incredible footsteps to fill. Watching Michael O’Reilly as Johnny, made me realise how likeable the late Patrick Swayze portrayed the male lead. With his striking dance moves, Michael O’Reilly emphasises Johnny’s love for dance and does Swayze justice. It’s a shame that the audience seemed to have been more focused on his body than his actual skills, which I honestly think shouldn’t be overlooked – quite the opposite.

Simone Covele is another great dancer and performer. In the role of Penny, she really brings that heartbreak and torn character to life. Simone Covele puts you in the shoes of Penny and with her superb dancing is one of the highlights of this production. Of course the music cannot be missed and Alex Wheeler, who plays Billy Kostecki, and Sian Gentle-Green come together as a great vocal duo. Their performance of ‘(I’ve had) The Time of My Life’ will give you goose bumps.

Dirty Dancing the musical is a well-designed tribute to the film. For those that love the classic, this musical is the brilliant opportunity to get up-close and enter that summer of 1963.

Dirty Dancing will be performed in The New Theatre until Saturday 8 June. Tickets are available from the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889 and here.