Review: Dirty Dancing at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: Dirty Dancing at Newcastle Theatre Royal

This week Dirty Dancing comes to the Newcastle Theatre Royal and nobody’s putting baby in the corner for this one!

We stepped into the enchanting world of the “Dirty Dancing” musical, which is a captivating tale of love, passion, and self-discovery set in the summer of 1963. Follow the story of Frances “Baby” Houseman, an innocent and idealistic young woman, who embarks on a life-changing journey during her family vacation at the Kellerman’s resort.

When Baby stumbles upon the forbidden world of the staff’s secret dance party, she becomes mesmerised by dance moves and the charismatic Johnny Castle, a talented and rebellious dance instructor. Against all odds, Baby finds herself drawn to the dancing world and forms an unexpected bond with Johnny, transcending social boundaries and defying societal norms.

As the summer unfolds, Baby and Johnny’s connection deepens through dance rehearsals, private lessons, and stolen moments. They find solace and freedom in each other’s arms, but their love faces numerous challenges – disapproval from Baby’s affluent family, the staff’s opposition, and the prevailing prejudices of the era.

Amidst the backdrop of infectious music and breathtaking choreography, Baby undergoes a transformative coming-of-age journey. She gains the courage to stand up for what she believes in, embracing her true self and the love she has found. Johnny, too, learns to trust and open his heart, discovering that true love knows no boundaries.

Michael O’Reilly and Kira Malou reprised their roles as Johnny and Baby following a sell-out West End run at the Dominion Theatre. I thought the chemistry was really believable between these two, and a joy to watch. It was easy to see these two are wholly familiar with each other.

O’Reilly had a great mix of arrogance and vulnerability as well as abs to delight some (or most) of the audience. I really enjoyed his performance, even more so as the show went on. Malou gave us a fun and classy performance of the young naive girl who looks for the best in everybody. Despite their resemblance to their film counterparts I wasn’t left comparing, and enjoyed them for what they brought to the roles individually. 

The show was close to what the original film offered and here most of the songs are performed by the ensemble or on-stage band who were visible at all times either at the rear of the stage or to the side, which was a nice touch and left the main characters to continue with their scenes with the music accompanying appropriately.

A well utilised set is cleverly used to become several aspects of the holiday resort, with smooth transitions throughout. The famous lake scene where they practice the lifts and balancing was cleverly recreated behind a screen and a clever way of shifting the environment.

Choreography from Austin Wilks brought us plenty of dance content in this show with plenty of steps, shimmering and sexy hip work. It is a pleasure to see as much dance as we did skilfully and excellently executed by all of the cast.

Whilst it has been an age since I watched the film, this has a cult following whether for the famous lines quoted or the lifts, and although the final seemed a tad cliche for me, nobody puts baby in the corner and it was what everyone was waiting for. A really enjoyable evening at the theatre had and for any fan you won’t be left disappointed. 

Join Baby and Johnny as they defy the odds and inspire us all to dance to the rhythm of our hearts. Dirty Dancing plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal on Tue 1 – Sat 5 Aug 2023. Tickets can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

-Aaron Whittington

If you want another opinion read Stephen’s review of when he saw this when it was on your in Leeds here.

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