Arts review: Dirty Dancing
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions
HK Culture Centre Grand Theatre
Reviewed: Apr 20
Dirty Dancing -The Classic Story on Stage has everything you'd expect from a musical - and more.
Written by Eleanor Bergstein, the story is about 17-year-old Frances "Baby" Houseman from a wealthy New York family falling in love with a handsome blue-collar dance instructor Johnny Castle during a family vacation. The show also tells of the American civil rights movement as it is set in the summer of 1963 the time of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
The production, directed by Alan Swerdlow, features an ensemble of 26 dancers. A strong dancer, Gareth Bailey (Johnny) has the perfect body and the perfect swings. His moves with Mila De Biaggi (Penny) were mesmerising and a highlight of the performance. Bryony Whitfield's Baby is believable and her last dance with Johnny was not disappointing. The highly anticipated "climatic lift" performed by her and Johnny was exhilarating.
Video projection was used to produce beautiful background scenery. With clever shifts of scenes and locations, the audience moved from the dining hall at the resort to the staff quarters where the mambo - "dirty dancing" - is performed all night, and to Johnny's private cabin where Baby revealed her love for him. There were also outdoors scenes where the two practise their dance secretly on a log and in a lake.
Despite having more than 70 quick scene changes - Baby has more than 20 costume changes - the show ran without a hitch.
Compared to the 1987 blockbuster starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, the theatrical show felt more real. The robust energy from the cast oozed off the stage while the audience could watch the dancers at close quarters.
A live band located on an elevated platform above the stage played 42 original songs reminiscent of the era.
Even if you have watched the movie many times and know exactly when Johnny says "Nobody puts Baby in a corner", this theatrical production will be able to offer you an entire new experience. Until May 12