“Nobody puts Baby in a corner” is a line met with such huge reaction, it seems to thicken the air.
It’s as if everything before and after doesn’t serve much purpose until those words are uttered.
Re-enacting one of the most well known lines in Hollywood history is as much a privilege as it is a huge responsibility — a privilege reserved wholly for the cast of this year’s 10h anniversary stage production of the famed Dirty Dancing.
The stage production is quite the purist when it comes to the reproduction of the famous movie’s storyline. All bar a few additional cutaways and solos as mere distractions for set changes and directional plotline shifts, the story is as easy to follow and just as easy to be smitten by as Patrick Swayze’s rendition in the 1980s.
From the moment Johnny Castle (Kurt Phelan) enters, the production flicks into a highly energetic and quite dance-heavy performance: every detail of which true to the original insofar as dance scenes, nudity, hilarious innuendos and alterations to the actor’s environment.
All dancing and tempting semi-nudity aside, they hone-in on in this production some more tangible elements from the time the film was created than you otherwise realise.
Racial segregation is a fairly noticeable common thread through the performance, highlighting how different times were.
Watch the movie again and you’ll notice snippets here and there, but it’s refreshing to see such aspects of the social upheaval woven into a storyline that resonates so strongly with so many.
The softly spoken, morally just and wholly likable character of Frances “Baby” Houseman (Kirby Burgess) carries the character in all her awkwardness so well, you can’t help but feel the struggles she thinks she faces.
Whether it’s learning dance steps or fumbling through interpersonal relationships, Burgess really steps-up to meet her otherwise sterling reputation of the quality actress she is.
The same can be said for Maddie Peat who plays Johnny Castle’s dance partner Penny Johnson. If you can get past the exquisite showcase of how long a woman’s legs can actually be, Peat’s adoption of the flirtatious, sexually-charged but simultaneously innocent and unassuming character is bang-on.
When bouncing off the likes of the other Houseman family members – all of whom look uncannily like the original cast from the movie – the synchronicity with which the performance rolls out is as refreshingly new as it is nostalgically timeless.
All quality acting aside, accurate social representation of the times, and sticking as close to the original storyline as a stage production can, it does seem though that the play exists for the closing scenes.
With explosive lights and crescendo music perfectly timed to each flex of Phelan’s purpose-built chest, the finale is made as grand an exeunt as you’d expect from such an overall sterling performance.
Bursts of enlivened backdrop lighting for the finale dancing scene to the momentous lift that cemented itself so strongly in western culture’s memory mean that no holds are barred to ensure the audience – because you can’t review a show like this without using the line – had the time of their life.
Dirty Dancing is now showing in Melbourne. Details and tickets: dirtydancingaustralia.com