Dirty Dancing, Palace Theatre, Manchester: Review

To paraphrase the great Groucho Marx, I had the time of my life – but this wasn’t quite it.

As a fan of the celebrated coming-of-age film “Dirty Dancing” starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, I was curious to see whether the stage show would live up to the hype of the 1987 movie.

And more importantly, could anyone ever fill the massive shoes that were Swayze’s?

The opening scene bode well as we were transported to the summer of 1963 and Kellerman’s resort – the American equivalent of Butlin’s – where the stage was set for a fast-paced treat full of musical numbers.

But the early promise soon faded. This wasn’t an adaptation of the film as much as a re-enactment on a stage.

The late great Swayze is an impossible act to follow but Paul-Michael Jones gives it his best shot as the super smooth handsome dance instructor Johnny who has all the women swooning at his feet, while Jill Winternitz is suitably sweet as the innocent Baby.

Jones and Winternitz had masses of dialogue but never sang a single word.

I can’t recall watching any other show with so many musical numbers where the lead characters don’t interact through song. I’m all for breaking the mould but on this occasion it only served to dilute the pace and chemistry between Johnny and Baby.

In fairness though the audience seemed to love that the film was followed faithfully and each iconic scene met with cheers, from Baby’s “I carried a watermelon” line on speaking to Johnny for the first time to sister Lisa’s comically dreadful talent show audition.

But you can’t help feeling that the whole show is building up to the final scene as Johnny storms his way through the audience, jumps onto the stage and utters the immortal line, “Nobody puts baby in a corner”.

As the audience whoop and holler, Dirty Dancing finds its stage magic. Johnny and Baby’s much-revered dance routine – and yes they do the lift – can’t fail to raise your spirits and make your heart soar.

An uplifting end to a much-loved story that suits the movie screens so well but still manages to have them Dirty Dancing in the aisles at theatres up and down the country.