Dancing light and fantastic at the Bristol Hippodrome

Charlie Hill reviews Dirty Dancing at Bristol Hippodrome

Eleanor Bergstein produces the iconic scenes from her film magnificently in this theatrical production of Dirty Dancing, enabling the audience to become intrinsically involved in the story that we all know and love so well.

Stephen Brimson Lewis’ brilliant set design sets the tone of the whole production, bringing the atmosphere and surroundings of Kellerman’s Hotel to life, with clever and subtle changes to images of scenery projected onto the set, transporting you from chalets to ballroom to the dining room scenes. The highlight being the portrayal of Baby and Johnny practicing “The Lift” behind a diaphanous, lake- depicting screen.

The cast bounce onto the stage with alternating fast-paced and smooth ballroom moves. As we are gradually introduced to the famous story and characters, the audience react to the comedy and the well known moments from the film, building to an almost frenzy by the time Johnny (Lewis Kirk) is seen jumping up on stage from the isle and delivering that line “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”.

Roseanna Frascona plays the role of Baby wonderfully and bears an uncanny resemblance to the original star of the film, Jennifer Gray. She really holds her own on stage and is so believable as the petite, strong, feisty Frances Houseman. Other strong roles include James Coombes as Dr. Jake Houseman and Alexander Wolfe is so convincing and funny as the geeky Neil Kellerman. Jessi-Lou Yates puts in a great performance as Lisa Houseman and has the audience giggling at her ridiculous song and dance routines and Claire Rogers portrays the sassy Penny with real verve .. wow she can dance!

And so to “that” part!  Understudy Lewis Kirk stepping in as Johnny for Gareth Bailey.  Although facially and physically poles apart from Patrick Swayze in the film, Kirk gradually comes into his own as the scenes unfold, I am sure encouraged by the wolf whistles (mostly from the women) of the audience. He brings a strong performance and by the final scene with the famous dance routine, he proves he can move … almost as well as Swayze.

This stage show is true to the film as is possible to be. Authentic 1960s clothing, along with those familiar tracks played by a band and sung with gusto by some of the cast members, make for a memorable, toe-tapping evening.

Dirty Dancing is showing at the Bristol Hippodrome until  5th April.