Dirty Dancing returns to people’s lives, reawakening all those slightly sexual feelings associated with the incredibly famous 1980’s film, in a vivid reimagination on stage. Adapted to stage by the original screenwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, the stage play remains true to the film and delights the audience who are, with some exceptions, generally middle aged woman. It is a testament to the legacy of this film (one of the most successful independent films of all time) that it is still so popular with its original viewers.
Following the story of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman in the 1960s it investigates the golden age of post-war recovery and moments in US history such as the civil rights movement. On holiday at a resort with her family, she becomes attracted to Johnny, the leader of the working-class entertainments crew and becomes embroiled in the politics between working class and middle class and witnesses the way the working class are still struggling, even in this economic boom, and being treated as second-class citizens. Johnny’s dance partner, Penny, becomes pregnant by one of the middle-class waiters from Harvard (who turns out to be a real sexist scumbag) and needs help to abort the child which is where Baby steps in and locates the money needed. The abortion attempt is botched and Baby has to enlist her doctor father’s help to save Penny but through helping Penny, Baby’s father’s opinion of Johnny is consolidated as he gets the wrong end of the stick. As expected Baby and Johnny’s love is thwarted at every turn and they are pushed further and further apart until the final scenes when Johnny returns to claim Baby for his own with the iconic, much quoted, line ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’.
What was extremely enjoyable about this production was the way in which the main actors brought an individuality to their roles and weren’t direct imitations of the original players. It really suited the stage as a production, not quite a musical and not fully a dance show Dirty Dancing has a little for everyone. It was well thought out to work as a theatre production but Bergstein ensured that the important much loved scenes were included.
Projection recreated many of the scenes such as rain and the lake Baby and Johnny practise lifts in and allowed the audience to really invest in the setting of the production in America rather than Edinburgh Playhouse.
A show that didn’t require for the audience to have seen the film it was a fantastic night out and to be honest, the excited Dirty Dancing die-hards made it even more fun. I’ve never heard a theatre erupt with such wolf whistles as at the moment Johnny’s butt cheeks were exposed to the whole Playhouse theatre (on purpose I believe…)