REVIEW | Dirty Dancing at Wolverhampton Grand

As one of the most iconic films of the 80s, there was always going to be a risk in transforming Dirty Dancing from a blockbuster smash to stage show.

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But I think I speak for most of the audience at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre when I say that this is a risk that has certainly paid off.
When Dirty Dancing was released back in 1987, audiences fell head over heels in love with this ‘boy meets girl’ movie starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, that has since gone on to become an absolute classic.
And it’s not just the story, either, Dirty Dancing birthed some of the most iconic dance routines of all time. Who can possibly listen to (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life without thinking of that lift?
Set in the Swingin’ 60s at Kellerman’s Holiday Resort, sweet and innocent Baby’s (Kira Malou) is swept from her privileged surroundings and taken away on a summer break with her family before heading to college, graduating and marrying a fellow highly-privileged gentleman, under her father’s wishes.
But when she finds herself carrying some watermelons, Baby meets Kellerman’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Michael O’Reilly), things start to take a turn in her stay at the luxury resort.
After discovering that Johnny’s dance partner is pregnant, Baby borrows money from her father to pay for an illegal abortion, but the procedure doesn’t go to plan and throws a spanner in the works for Johnny’s partner.
Dirty Dancing Tour
Kira Malou as Baby & Michael O’Reilly as Johnny. Credit: Alastair Muir
Before she knows it, Baby’s diving headfirst into Johnny’s chaotic world that sees her swapping sandals for dance shows and going against her father’s wishes when she falls head over heels for her teacher.
There’s no denying that both Malou and O’Reilly have rather big shoes to fill. Millions of people have grown up watching Dirty Dancing, so taking on the roles of two iconic characters is a bold and brave move that they both manage to successfully fill with heaps of passion, emotion and unbeatable choreography.
I really must praise O’Reilly for his performance. Not only because when I learned that this show is his professional debut, but that he took on what is arguably the late, great Patrick Swayze’s with utter ease.
That being said, for a clearly talented dancer like Malou to undertake a role that requires her to perform as a complete novice is something that must be applauded, and she has no trouble in taking centre stage throughout the performance. After all, nobody puts Baby in the corner.
Together, the due create chemistry on stage that’s so believable, and that’s exactly what makes them shine. It’s clear that they’ve truly thrown themselves into the world of Baby and Johnny with all guns blazing.
Dirty Dancing Tour
Kira Malou as Baby, Michael O’Reilly as Johnny and Simone Covele as Penny. Credit: Alistair Muir

When it comes to doing the mamba, cha-cha and everything in-between, there’s absolutely no room for error as each high-energy routine is packed with kicks, flicks and challenging lifts that you’d expect to grace the Strictly ballroom.

There are fleckles of humour that are sprinkled throughout their time on stage together, bringing that bring a breath of fresh air to their performance. Team them with the rest of the utterly fantastic supporting cast and you’ve got the base of a fantastic show.
Transforming a movie from screen to stage can often come with its difficulties too, but this production features clever scenes and set changes that cleverly adapt for that memorable scene in the lake.
I did have the time of my life watching this production, but admittedly there were small parts between some set changes that fell silent for a little too long, and there was the odd occasion where I felt like accents slipped, but none of listed would stop me from seeing this hot, fun and thoroughly enjoyable show again.

Dirty Dancing runs at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday, April 6. You can grab tickets here.

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