The scores for this show varied across different elements. Acting 7/10, Dancing 9/10 but it was the change of characters and new scenes that let this down 5/10. I would still say I had a good night but it was less then I was expecting.
I didn’t fall in love and it didn’t feel so right: Dirty Dancing – Sage Gateshead
Dirty Dancing is one of my all-time favourite films. Like ‘Grease’ I’ve lost count of how many times I have watched it. I’ve stayed away from the temptation to watch the stage adaptation until now as how on earth can it live up to my ultimately high expectations. Unfortunately, I should have stayed resolute in my thoughts as my experience wasn’t one I’d choose to relive.
I was hoping to leave the venue in almost a euphoric mood, but the performance led me to questioning whether or not actually watched the same original movie as the director.
My plus one was my partner (Richard) and he can’t remember watching the movie, so he came to the show with fresh eyes. Of course, he wouldn’t have escaped the sound track but there was no love or hate there.
With a new performance I’d feel the need to set the scene and outline the story but with this being so iconic I don’t think an introduction is needed but here’s a link to the tour incase a recap is required.
The casting has been excellent and the height difference between the two main characters didn’t appear to be problematic.
Penny (Simone Covele): well-chosen and fitted her part. She’s an awesome dancer and a believable actress too. Far too many fan kicks though…. Less is more.
Johnny (Michael O’Reilly): The first thing that springs to mind is his body (apologies). My partner found it hilarious at the amount of whopping the naked bottom flash got and still finds it complete double standards that women can seemly perv openly. Michael delivered what he’d been asked to but there were times that the role needed to be stronger. The ‘No body puts Baby in the corner’ was almost lost and ‘G’gun, G’gun’ yes ridiculous but warrants a bit of overacting. No one will ever fit the shoes of Swayze but O’Reilly made a very good attempt of making this his own.
Baby played by Kira Malou was acted with a genuine sweetness and she looked the part (minus the white jeans). Kira made a good Baby. The accent needs worked on though as it was quite only high pitched throughout. Malou definitely did justice to ‘I carried a watermelon!?!’. She definitely proved you can be all woman and lovely too.
The Housemans: The depiction of Dr. Jake Houseman was just right. His acting was good to watch. Marjorie Houseman however appeared a little awkward and bless them being made to do a duet. Finding someone to play an authentic Lisa Housman would be difficult I predict and Lizzie Ottley was good but could make the character more extreme.
The Kellemans: Both gents were formidable in their parts and I thoroughly enjoyed their take on Neil (grandson) and Max (hotel owner).
Tito (Colin Charles): A great extension of this almost non speaking part from the film. Charles has an excellent voice and I warmed to him a lot.
Mr. Schumacher (Mark Faith): Please bring back the loveable light-fingered couple. It took me far too long to realise who this irritatingly rude character was playing. I’m sorry Mark but I wasn’t the only one in the audience struggling with the authenticity.
Sian Gentle-Green and Alex Wheeler were adept in carrying a tuneful narrative throughout the performance. It worked and made the somewhat bity production (as was the film) flow better.
Staging: I wasn’t sure how a theatre production would work in Sage but it did with its cleverly put together, multisided minimalist set. The projector screens were there to replicate the water and driving scenes and although it worked, a little a bit of water in the hair or on the skin would have aided continuity along with the car being to scale with the road.
I know space and aisles maybe not totally conducive to dancing at Sage Gateshead but surely there could have been at least some homage to aisle dancing for ‘time of your life’.
Extra scenes: Why? A few days on and I’m still trying to work out what they added (other then confusion) to the audience experience. In all honesty scrap the camp fire scene altogether and make more of she’s like the wind which for albeit few bars was completely sidestepped. Schoolboy error.
At the final bow I was left thinking that Malou and O’Reilly must be a couple outside of the stage as the bow is where the performance ends and reality dances in, but their kiss didn’t appear to be acting.
I would still say I had a good night but it was less then I was expecting.
Thanks to Suzanne Whelan of @sofastories for guest posting.
Note: We were provided complimentary access to attend this show