DIRTY Dancing manages to capture the spirit and nostalgia of the film on stage, even if it misses a few beats.
The stage show opened at QPAC in Brisbane last night, 10 years since it first debuted in Australia and then toured the world.
The show is not a musical, although it features music, and for someone who's used to seeing either plays or musicals, it takes a while to get used to the hybrid format.
When Baby appears on stage in the first scene, you expect her to burst into song because, well, that's what we're used to seeing.
But turning a movie that was never a musical into one, of course, doesn't make sense.
I applaud the show's writers and producers for remaining so faithful to the iconic film, which saw an idealistic young woman (Frances "Baby" Houseman) fall in love with a dancing instructor (Johnny Castle) while on summer vacation with her family.
But translating intimate moments from the screen to the stage can be problematic.
Some key scenes, such as Baby and Johnny practicing the penultimate lift in the water, are cleverly staged for comedic effect.
But at other times it's slightly awkward and feels like the ensemble dancers and singers are filling time while the leads are off stage.
Kirby Burgess is excellent as Baby. She expertly navigates Baby's transition from clumsy dancer to confident partner, all while balancing her character's emerging sexuality with her endearing quirks.
Burgess's co-star Kurt Phelan certainly has the dancing credentials for the role of Johnny, and the physique, but he doesn't quite nail that intangible swagger of Patrick Swayze.
It's a near-impossible comparison to live up to, but that's the challenge of playing such a beloved character.
Maddie Peat, as Johnny's childhood friend and fellow dance instructor Penny Johnson, has legs for days that she uses to their full potential in her many high kicks, lifts and splits.
Adam Murphy is another stand-out, perfectly capturing the Dr Houseman I remember from the film.
Teagan Wouters, who plays Baby's sister Lisa, has great comedic timing and provides some much-needed lighter moments.
A show like this wouldn't work without a strong ensemble cast, who put in a lot of hard yards on the stage both as dancers and singers.
If, like me, you feel like the show gets off to a bit of a sluggish start, then hang in there because the energy does pick up and those memorable songs and scenes are worth it.
Dirty Dancing plays the Lyric Theatre at QPAC through July 18.
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