This week Dirty Dancing comes to Milton Keynes and I found myself having the time of my life! The show is based on the Patrick Swayze film and tells the story of one summer that ‘baby’ grows up. The show is set in 1963, and the Houseman’s are having a vacation. Dr Houseman knows the owner and is treated as a VIP guest along with his wife, and his two children, Lisa and Baby.
The resort offers all sorts of entertainment popular in the 1960’s including dance lessons, and of course there are specialist dancers to help with this. There are strict rules here, the dance teachers cannot fraternise with the guests (unlike the waiters who are university students and encouraged to do so).
Katie Hartland gives such a perfect portrayal as Baby. Her clothes, her manner and her journey through dance all lend itself to the character and you can’t help but like her and admire her steadfast thinking. Katie is obviously an accomplished dancer but it was very enjoyable watching her learning to dance from scratch. Which is more my own level of dance! Katie brings so much to the role, her version of Baby is wise and ambitious and feels more grown up in some ways than her older sister, Lisa. Lisa is played by Lizzie Ottley and she is great at giving us a typical teenager from the early 60’s. Boy mad and very girly, Lizzie gives Lisa a humorous side and her Hawaiian dance is a classic example of this.
Lewis Griffiths plays Johnny Castle and he not only looks the part - think 50’s rocker in black leather – a bit like The Fonz from Happy Days with a perfect quiff, but he oozes sex appeal and can dance his socks off. He certainly danced his shirt off and most of the females in the audience were swooning at his moves. However, Lewis is much more than a fit body, he gives a passionate performance of Johnny, where we feel for him, his frustrations with his job and even see how he learns from baby despite him being older than her.
Penny is another dancer in the resort. Her and Johnny are close and they try to work out what to do when she finds herself in trouble. Baby offers help and Penny agrees after some reluctance. Penny is played by Carlie Milner and this girl can dance! Her legs are to die for and yet Carlie shows Penny’s soft side where she leans on baby for support. A fantastic performance by Carlie.
The whole cast support each other and many give really important supporting roles to the main characters. There is a dynamic and the show never feels stilted, always moving the story along with relevant input. The sets are simple yet fun and effective and the numbers in the show fit the period with some classics such as ‘Do You Love Me?, Save The Last Dance, Duke Of Earl and You Don’t Own Me. But of course, the whole audience is waiting for one song, Time of My Life along with that final dance which really is fabulous.
No one puts Baby in the corner and no one will put this show in the corner either. Dirty Dancing is a fabulous show. It’s got everything; a heartfelt story with real characters that you love along with a great soundtrack. Get out of that corner and go to the show!
Dirty Dancing is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 29 April.