Review: Dirty Dancing at the Buxton Opera House


The classic musical Dirty Dancing is on tour and makes its latest stop at the Buxton Opera House and its arrival has been met with open arms by the people of the Peak.

A packed theatre awaited the opening scenes with a real buzz of anticipation. Were they to be satisfied enough to have the time of their lives? The answer is a full-throated yes as they were swept along by a fast-moving production that had them shouting for more at the final curtain.

The scene was set with a sensuous opening sequence that was a forerunner of the fun to be had and immediately showcased the dancing talents that were to be seen. Great choreography under the guidance of Austin Wilks punctuates the storyline while the show bowls along with its soundtrack including some very familiar tunes alongside some of the less familiar.

Dirty Dancing takes place at an upmarket holiday hotel owned by Max Kellerman (Michael Remick) and follows the fortunes of the Houseman family. Lynden Edwards plays the head of household Dr Jake Houseman and he is accompanied by his wife Marjorie (Jackie Morrison) and his two daughters Lisa (Lizzie Ottley) and Frances – better known as Baby. They all give solid performances with the parents playing their parts as upper-middle class adults to perfection and Lizzie given the opportunity to display her amusingly quirky singing,

But it is clear from the outset that the main character in the family group is Baby – a strong-minded personality who is originally courted by Max’s grandson Neil (Thomas Sutcliffe). However, she falls for dancing coach Johnny Castle after being introduced to him at a club where the dancing is on the seamier side. This also allows her to develop a friendship with Billy (Samuel Bailey).

The partnership develops both romantically and as a dancing partnership after Johnny’s partner Penny (Carlie Milner – an excellent dancer who brings good pathos to her part) has to end following an unwanted pregnancy. This is a journey that is thoroughly enjoyed by the audience with the early attempts by Baby to become a dirty dancer providing some humorous moments.

For the show to succeed there has to be a sensuality between the two leads and this is present in spades. Kira Malou is very believable as the intelligent but naïve Baby who comes out of her shell to play her part as both a romantic and dancing partner to great. Effect.

Michael O’Reilly steals the show though, attracting the looks of many hungry eyes. To be fair, the female members of the audience would have been satisfied if he had just stood there naked to the waist but he puts on a smouldering performance to accompany his dance moves that had the audience whooping with delight.

Set in 1963 there is an edgy feel to the story being told that involves the Civil Rights movement and a botched abortion but there is always a lightness to offset the darkness with much being provided by Mark Faith (Mr Schumacher).

Special mention must be made of the live music provided by Miles Russell, Ben Mabberley and tom Mussell and the performance of Colin Charles who plays resident singer Tito Suarez. Credit must also be given to Designer Roberto Comotti for a simple but highly versatile and effective set and Jennifer Irwin for her costume design.

The classic line of dialogue and iconic dance move known to all were eagerly awaited. I am pleased to say they were both delivered perfectly to huge applause. But then the whole show was a slick and professional performance from all concerned. Take my advice – get along to the Opera House. This show most definitely must not be put in a corner.

Dirty Dancing continues until September 4th. The performance is 2hours 15 minutes long including interval. For ticket information contact 01298 72190