Review: Dirty Dancing at The Liverpool Empire

Posted on 13 April 2015
By Terri McBride
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With its feel good story, slick compositions, dazzling costumes, scintillating choreography and – of course – iconic movie status, everything should be in place for the stage production of Dirty Dancing, which is currently running at The Liverpool Empire Theatre, to tick all the boxes. However, although the show is jam-packed with things to marvel at and get excited by, there are elements which come across as being somewhat disappointing.

Playing Johnny Castle, the role made famous by Patrick Swayze back in 1987, was understudy Lewis Kirk and his was a performance that, it has to be said, was as good as it was energetic, with a fizzing chemistry emitting from Kirk and his dance partner, the quite superb Roseanna Frascona, who is the absolute personification of “Baby” Houseman that Jennifer Grey had brought to the role so superbly. Frascona’s quirky innocence is completely captivating.

The set is incredibly clever, changing rapidly from dance hall to woods to kitchen and even to a lake in which Johnny and Baby splash and swim for a while, thanks to some ingenious use of imagery and magnificent lighting effects.

So what is the problem? Well, judging on this performance, and despite the “big” production gimmicks, it all feels just a little flat at times and it’s a shame that some of the more iconic songs are pre-recorded and so not given the full live orchestra treatment. For others, in particular the haunting She’s Like the Wind – we were given only a teasing sample, leaving us just a little disappointed. The songs performed live, on the other hand, lifted the show to another level altogether.

Numbers sung live by Colin Charles, Wayne Smith and Natalie Winsor are all phenomenal, as are their all round performances, as is the dancing ability of Claire Rogers whose Penny Johnson, Castle’s original dancing partner, is quite simply mesmerising. In fact, it isn’t really until the incredibly energetic finale, to the timeless I’ve Had the Time of My Life, that the audience really let go and finally voice their approval and is the moment that truly stands out.

Overall then, fans of the film will surely enjoy the experience of seeing this stage production. However, is anybody going to have the time of their lives? Not quite, but they will nevertheless still certainly have an enjoyable night out.

Dirty Dancing
Liverpool Empire Theatre
April 7 – April 25, 2015
Author: Eleanor Bergstein
Director: Sarah Tipple
Cast Includes: Lewis Kirk, Rosanna Frascona, Claire Rogers, Colin Charles.
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
PR Rating: ***