Whether you’re a dance enthusiast, fanatic about the film, or looking for a girls’ night out, Dirty Dancing, currently showing at Oxford’s New Theatre,  is a must-see.  It echoes the film’s fantastic dancing and wonderful plot, but adds excitement through live music, special effects and staging. It is worth seeing this company tour; they impress with a sleek performance and flawless production.

Based on an iconic film, most of the audience (me included) arrive with expectations: “the summer of 1963 when everybody called me Baby, and it didn’t occur to me to mind.” The first line of the film, following a reminder that mobile phones have not yet been invented, encourages the audience to draw comparisons to the film on which it is based; a risky decision to go up against Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. However, the cast is inspired. Roseanna Frascona looks are perfectly matched for Baby, and Gareth Bailey balances Jonny’s tough-guy exterior and inherent likability. Though in my opinion, Penny, played by Claire Rogers, stole the show.

It is clear that Rogers has been classically trained and to the audience her dancing seems naturally flawless. She is also a tremendous actress and has a fabulous stage presence. To me, her performance matches, if not rivals, that of Cynthia Rhodes. The ensemble is also excellent in this production; they are highly professional whether moving props in perfect synchronisation or singing impeccably.

The staging is elegant and simple. The use of a rotating piece of stage allows one scene to transform into the next, creates movement and distance, and suggests physical and metaphorical boundaries whilst keeping the stage minimalist. Projection is also used to recreate iconic scenes, such as when Jonny and Baby practice their famous lift in the water. Add to this a live band and an excitable audience and it is definitely a night to remember!

Miranda Frudd

26th December 2015