Theatre Review: Dirty Dancing, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Dirty Dancing

Format: Musical

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Date: 7th May 2019

Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool


“I’ve had the time of my life…”


Set in 1963, Dirty Dancing portrays the love story of young Frances ‘Baby’ Housman (Kira Malou) and Johnny Castle (Michael O’Reilly) as they navigate all that comes with summer love at Kellerman’s. ’Baby’ – a peace activist embarks on a three week family vacation with her father (a Doctor), her mother and sister. Through the pain of another’s tragedy and the yearning to help, ‘Baby’ comes to learn about herself, love and the world in which she lives and dreamed of one day saving through friendship and romance.

Michael O’Reilly portrays the male protagonist, Johnny Castle. His performance is somewhat average, lacking the natural charisma of the iconic Patrick Swayze, and donning a comically deep voice. But for what O’Reilly lacks in charm, he more than makes up for in dancing ability. His dance numbers with both Simone Covele (Penny) and Kira Malou (‘Baby’) stole the show, and I haven’t even mentioned his show-stopping physique!

Kira Malou, on the other hand, completely embodied the character of ‘Baby’. Her bubbly and energetic performance was a joy to watch, even in a serious scene she held her own. The interactions with her father, portrayed by Lynden Edwards, were emotionally gut-punching and showed her true range as a performer.

The main pair are supported by a number of secondary characters in the overarching storyline – with standouts being the aforementioned Dr. Houseman and Penny Johnson. The two offer emotional dilemmas for both of our main pair, with Baby in a constant inner battle between the person she wants to be and her father wants her to be, and Johnny feeling an immense sense of responsibility for Penny’s wellbeing.  The two supporting cast members serve the story well, but the rest of the supporting characters are otherwise unmemorable.

An outstanding aspect of Dirty Dancing was the impeccable transition between each scene. Furthermore, the costume changes, especially by leading lady Kira Malou, were seamless; from prom dresses to dancing dresses to shorts and a summer top, the transition between set, scene, characters, costume and mood were professionally undertaken and cleanly executed.

Overall, Dirty Dancing is a must-see musical show if you are a fan of the original film. The outstanding dancing, character recreation and upbeat music makes for a fun-filled yet heartfelt evening out. Unsurprisingly, there is an ode to ‘dirty dancing’ in choreography and costume, yet the show is handled tastefully. I would recommend this show to anyone of age to watch the original film, especially if you’ve a love of music or dance.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding