Festival Theatre, Sun 4 Oct
Filled with all the music and passion of the movie, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage stars Kirby Burgess and Kurt Phelan as our unlikely lovebirds Johnny and Baby. It’s a trip down memory lane for an audience who would have grown up watching movies set in a time when girls wore flared floral skirts and pinned hair, while college boys served tables by day and were happily seduced by rich lonely wives by night.
Even with the state-of-the-art sets emulating scenes from the movie, it’s obvious that the show and cast are not taking themselves too seriously, and the audience gladly laughs it up. Everything from the cheesy green fields and lake scenes projected on the screen as Johnny and Baby practise – and hilariously fail – the high lifts, to Lisa Houseman’s (Teagan Wouters) woeful song and dance rendition of Hula Huna in the talent show. It’s takes a lot of skill to look and sound that bad and Wouters completely nails it. Gabriel Brown is good as the dorky, whiney Neil – heir to the Kellerman throne, while Baby has her own awkward moments that Burgess pulls off with ease.
We chuckle at Baby’s classic line – “I carried a watermelon” and roar as Johnny announces that “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” The raunchy dance moves in the staff quarters are a hit – not to mention the mind-blowing high kicks from Johnny’s dance partner Penny – played by the gorgeous Maddie Peat (how does she do that and not pull a hamstring?!) We all cheer at the bedroom scene and leave the lovebirds to it as we head to the bar at the break to celebrate their consummation with a wine on their behalf.
There are some absolute highlights in this performance. James D. Smith as Johnny’s watermelon-carrying cousin, Billy, sings an impassioned and heartbreaking version of In The Still Of The Night, dedicated to his own love interest, red-haired singer Elizabeth (Anna Freeland); it completely steals my attention from anything else that is happening on stage in that moment. The pair’s (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life duet saw the sub-plot of their own love bloom as Johnny and Baby perform the final dance that makes their secret love very public.
Other classic songs from the movie such as Do You Love Me? Hungry Eyes and Lover Boy are fabulously performed by the on-stage cast band, with Eric Rasmussen as bandleader Tito Suarez in very fine voice.
Although Phelan plays the dance instructor much more like Travolta’s too-cool-for-school Danny Zuko (Grease) than Swayze’s own unassumingly sexy and suave version of Johnny Castle, the chemistry between he and Burgess is undeniable. Their awkwardness is endearing, and their dance skills are outstanding. In fact, the entire cast rocks the dance floor without missing a beat. So much talent to behold!
Dirty Dancing is a fun, touching, endearingly corny and delicately wicked performance, and a winning night of musical theatre. Adelaide is the final leg of the Australian tour. After more than 200 performances, if you miss this now, you will miss it for good.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage continues at Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until Sun 1 Nov.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Images courtesy of Jeff Busby