Wednesday, November 01, 2006

London's Dirty Dancing: Did Critics Have The Time Of Their Lives?

London's Dirty Dancing: Did Critics Have The Time Of Their Lives?

Amidst my cruising last week, I failed to take appropriate notice of the West End opening for Dirty Dancing, based on the Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey flick of the same name. And much to my surprise, some of the critics actually seemed to rally around this different kind of jukebox musical where -- like Footloose before it -- the songs from the movie soundtrack are now sung by the players.

Awarding four out of five stars was the effusive Nicholas de Jongh of the Evening Standard, who writes: "[T]his stage version offers something distinct and more intimate than the celluloid experience. Artfully designed to titillate hearts and minds of teenage girls, not to mention mature ladies pining for their lost youth, a role here amply filled by muscle-flaunting Josef Brown, the musical's game of mutual seduction comes into close, breathless focus....[Y]ou realise why the musical has broken all box office records, with £11 million already taken. Dirty Dancing in the flesh, as opposed to the screen, will offer a warm dip in fantasyland for a fresh generation of teenage girls."

Another four star review came from Benedict Nightingale of The Times: "When (Brown) and (Georgina) Rich’s Baby are at their sinuous best, you feel what that movie suggested. Dancing isn’t almost as good as sex. No, sex is almost as good as dancing -- or, rather, both are indivisible....I found myself warming to Bergstein’s modern fairy story and to the principals: Brown, elegant of mind and spirit as well as body, and Rich, growing in assurance, skill and beauty as she takes her life into her own hands -- and, of course, her own feet."

Noting the tuner's "joyous opening," The Independent's Paul Taylor offers: "This is a show that will give keen pleasure to Dirty Dancing addicts and to newcomers alike. It's often visually lovely, shifting location with the use of hyper-real video footage....[T]his is a very enjoyable evening. One pleasure is anticipating the dialogue that has achieved catchphrase status."

But not all critics agreed.

Offering up only two out of five stars is The Guardian's Lyn Gardner, who pans the show: "When somebody does break into song, it often looks like a mistake....The problem with attempting to recreate a facsimile of a film on stage is that, inevitably, celluloid does it far better....Why spend £35 a ticket on this when you can rent a DVD for far less and leave your seat to make a cup of tea during the smoochy boring bits?"

Calling the production a "slack, lazy adaptation," Matt Wolf of Bloomberg criticizes it by saying, "[A] built-in audience is no excuse for shoddy work, which is where you have to wonder at a production from director James Powell that plays like a lengthy annotation of the movie....[I]t's a shame that Kate Champion's choreography isn't, well, dirtier; the various writhings on view are standard-issue fare."

Given the healthy advance bookings for Dirty Dancing, it's likely that London audiences will be seeing these moves for the foreseeable future.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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At 03 November, 2006, Anonymous Robbie White said...

Dirty dancing has had mixed reviews over here from public and critics alike.
I'm hoping to see the show soon, but I'v been hearing reports of dis-organization, terrible choreography, and awfull direction... Not the best word of mouth for a new show.
I shall as ever reserve judgement until I have seen it however.

Robbie White | Senior Editor |

At 04 November, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Robbie - I'll be very interested in hearing your take on the show. I'm probably in a very tiny minority who has never even seen the movie, let alone the stage show. I've never had a desire.

I found it interesting how varied the reviews really were. Views seemed to be polar opposites. So please let me know what your experience is!


At 04 August, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 04 August, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

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