Theatre Review: Dirty Dancing - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭

Review by Graeme Shield

Dirty Dancing, the popular 1987 movie, has a big place in pop culture and an even bigger following of fans.  Who can fail to have the time of their life as “Baby” (Katie Eccles) and her family arrive at Kellerman’s summer resort, where she meets the rebellious dancer Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths). How do you know he’s a rebel? Well, he… flips trays and … looks after women! Gasp!

The stage tour offers little more than a slavish recreation of the movie - warts and all. The trouble is that in keeping so close to the original film, the production doesn’t suit the form in which it’s being presented - theatre. 

While Gillian Bruce’s choreography is delightfully nimble, the training montages seem stretched out and cumbersome.  Director Federico Bellone uses projection to poor effect - best evidenced when Johnny & Baby are driving what appears to be a miniature car down a massive road - and poor scene transitions rob the show of any dramatic tension whatsoever.

Stripped of the opportunity to excel in any area, the hardworking cast are left floundering. The extremely capable Griffiths & Eccles try hard to inject meaning into their characters but ultimately the book’s reverence for the movie lets them both down. The only character afforded any slim sense of development is that of Penny, which was excellently realised by Carlie Milner.

Having said all this, the audience - undoubtedly filled with Dirty Dancing fans - enjoyed watching their favourite movie scenes recreated. Wisely the show (to use a gambling term) doesn’t blow it’s wad too early and the sensational lift and final moments of the show are indeed it’s most thrilling.

If you’re of the opinion that Dirty Dancing is one of the best movies ever, then you should ignore this review and go and see it anyway. All your favourite moments are here, including the songs ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘She’s Like The Wind’, ‘Hey Baby’ and ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’.

But I did not have the time of my life. Watch the movie instead.

Dirty Dancing is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 17th June. For tickets and information visit the Edinburgh Playhouse website.