In the air lingers a sickly sweet smell of alcohol as the heavily female weighted audience shuffle into their seats in the Wolverhampton Grand auditorium. Scanning around the room are the vibrant magenta lights from the side of the stage, blinding and exciting the occupants of every single filled seat. Only one musical will ever have such a prominent and recognisable effect on an audience, and that musical is Dirty Dancing.
A classic and timeless story; almost everyone, at some point in their life, has watched at least a single scene of Dirty Dancing. The story encapsulates everything that a large margin of the target audience has fantasised about at some point during their life. A young, intelligent girl going on a cliché holiday with her family comes across an exquisitely looking and extraordinarily talented dancer who changes her world forever, while teaching her how to dance.
As with any romantically charged musical, every gloriously choreographed dance scene must ooze with passion and an unmistakable sexual connection. The performers who took on the roles of Baby Houseman (Katie Hartland) and Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths) are to be highly commended for their flawless executions of the characters. The two work effortlessly well together, moulding together with every dance move and immaculately channelling their talent into creating a visibly concrete attraction between their two characters. These two, out of the three times that I have been lucky enough to see the show, produced the most believable and desirable relationship between Baby and Johnny. Filling the high-heeled dance shoes of those who created the classic roles must be a very challenging and daubting task, but these performers never put a single step wrong during the show.
Amongst the incredibly smooth scene changes and prop movement came an endless stream of flawless dances and creative characterisations. I feel a need to commend Carlie Milner, who performed as Penny, not only for her breathtaking and inspiring dancing, but also for her immaculate characterisation of her character. She beautifully led us through the emotional wave that suffocates Penny during the chronology of the musical, from her heartbreak at discovering her pregnancy, desolation as she endures the backstreet abortion right up to her gratitude towards Doctor Houseman. Combining all of her skills and talents together meant Milner produced a completely unique and truly intriguing character of Penny, and she has easily been the best of the three characterisations I have witnessed.
In addition to the main cast, the ensemble should also be recognised and highly congratulated for the energy, talent and dedication they so clearly brought to the production as well. Any person who frequents the theatre or only goes once or twice, can appreciate the effort of the ensemble. Without each individual talent enveloped in the ensemble a production could never be complete; not only do the ensemble contribute to the musical numbers and the dances, but they assist in set changes and performing in the background to make each scene feel complete. Were the show lacking of the elements the ensemble supply to the show, Dirty Dancing could never be as perfect as it should be. So alongside my praise for the main cast will always come equal praise for the ensemble. Though their participation to the show may not be obvious to some, I, along with others who hold a passion for theatre, understand that they are easily important as the leads.
As the show drew to a close, and the iconic dance routine began, I was reminded about why I adore this musical so much. Never have I seen a show continually draw together an audience as well as Dirty Dancing. Every face in the crowd shone with happiness and awe at the talent being displayed in front of them. Everyone is miming (or proudly belting) out every single word to the song, and some, albeit slightly tipsy, are even reenacting the exact dance moves. And that is what makes Dirty Dancing so special, and a musical that I will easily and happily watch an endless amount of times: it has the ability to not only broadcast exceptional talents, but also to fill any auditorium with a sensational buzz that makes you realise just how powerful the theatre can be.