Mesmerised by so many wonderful moments

Dirty Dancing at The Congress Theatre in Eastbourne. SUS-150701-095233001
Dirty Dancing at The Congress Theatre in Eastbourne. SUS-150701-095233001

Whoever made the decision to take one of the most adored films of the last few decades and transform it into a stage production knew they would have an enormous job on their hands.

Alongside the usual demands of delivering a show that would engage, entertain and excite audiences across the county, taking on such an iconic movie would undoubtedly add another layer of pressure.

Fewer stage shows have visited Eastbourne with the same level of expectation as Dirty Dancing - a production that has broken countless box office records and all based upon a film that has been watched by millions across the globe.

Dirty Dancing on stage was always bound to attract the masses - females up and down the country wanting the chance to get even closer to the characters and immerse themselves in a world of romance, defiance and of course, dirty dancing. As the show’s writer Eleanor Bergstein said, “The movie’s open-hearted audiences have a desire to somehow be more present while it was happening - to step through the flat screen and be there at Kellerman’s while the story was taking place.”

It’s safe to say the show did not disappoint.

The characters on stage, who have all been made to bear a striking resemblance to their on-screen counterparts, depict all of the show’s most famous moments, from Baby Houseman and Jonny Castle’s log lift to their intense performance of ‘Hungry Eyes’. But let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be Dirty Dancing without delivering those famous quotes about putting Baby in a corner and carrying a watermelon.

What makes the show so special is the way in which those iconic scenes are played out on the stage. The dancing, instead of being limited to a square TV screen, takes over the entire stage and it’s impossible not to be mesmerised by the elaborate and exotic movements.

Despite all, if not most, of the audience knowing the plot like it was their own life story, watching the show on stage was just like seeing it for the first time all over again.

There were always bound to be certain aspects of the movie that would be difficult to recreate, such as Jonny and Baby practising the dance on the log and in the lake, but the directors used great initiative to deliver those scenes in a manageable way without leaving audiences feeling like anything was lacking.

Of course, most of the show just builds up to that final moment - the moment that everyone wants to see and everyone wants to be a part of. For this, being on stage has an edge over being on the screen - an edge of danger and excitement, an edge of knowing what should happen but not knowing what will.

And when, thankfully, the iconic lift is pulled off in emphatic fashion, the audience breathe a sight of relief before erupting into cheers and applause, knowing they were there to share the magical moment they’ve watched countless times over.

Any show that can start with such a high expectation, keep the audience smiling throughout and have hundreds up on their feet dancing by the end has to be hailed as not only a raging success, but also a real good time - some might even say, the time of their life.

Review by Maria Hudd