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Review – A brilliant Dirty Dancing

Photo: Kirby Burgess as Baby and Kurt Phelan as Johnny, Photo: Jeff Busby

Dirty Dancing

By Eleanor Bergstein

Directed by James Powell

Produced by John Frost, Karl Sydow, Martin McCallum, Joye Entertainment, Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season: May 28-July 18. Running time two hours 20 minute inckuding interval. Bookings: or 136 246

Oh what a night! It was a night full of quality, quirky fun, great music, magical visual effects, and incredible dancing. There was also enough eye-candy to light up the life of anyone regardless of sex.

The video and projection design from John Driscoll created some unbelievable images and added an amazing cinematic feel to the whole thing.

This is the 10th anniversary of this Australian concoction and what a brilliant production it was. I don’t think I have ever seen a more attractive cast that was blessed with so much energy and talent in all departments. It was sheer pleasure to watch them perform with such boundless energy.

It has a plot and characters that could end up as corny as Kansas, but under James Powell’s direction the story became believable and the characters very real

The action is set in 1963 in a popular family resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains and 17 year- old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is holidaying with her older sister and parents.

Baby is a typical bored teenager who doesn’t want to swim, play tennis, or join in the Latin American dance lessons with resident teacher and Lothario from the wrong side of the tracks Johnny Castle

She wanders around the grounds and stumbles upon the staff quarters where an all-night dance party is in full swing. The dancing is nothing like Johnny teaches in his classes. It is raunchy “dirty dancing” that that puts West Side Story to shame.

Then of course Baby falls for the bad boy and his sexy dance moves.

When Penny, Johnny’s competition dance partner, falls ill following a botched abortion Baby is cajoled into taking her place. So starts the heavy romance, seduction, deceit and misunderstandings all round. It was fascinating to watch the development from clumsy “dancing with the stars” sequences to the highly polished finale.

I have to admit to being enraptured by this stage version of the hit movie. It pulled me into the action from the second the curtain opened to the great sounding band and some smooth dance moves. I knew right away it was going to be a special night.

Kurt Phelan was a phenomenal Johnny, his look and attitude was perfect – like grown-up Fonz. He can move and sing and act and dominate with sheer stage presence.

Where most of the ensemble girls were tall, glammed up and wore high, high heels and short skirts, Kirby Burgess as Baby was shorter, wore unsexy clothes and low-heeled shoes. She was a lovely unsophisticated innocent and a perfect foil for the over-sexed Johnny.

I also enjoyed Adam Murphy as Baby’s Dad, Dr Houseman, It was role that could have been pompous and shallow, but Murphy turned it into a believable, caring character that added heaps to the production.

And what a great voice has Mark Vincent as Johnny’s offsider Billy Costecki. It was haunting duet he did with Maddie Peat as Penny. Now there was one of my favourites of the night. Maddie was so good in every aspect of her craft, she danced and sang sublimely and created a memorable character.

Gabriel Brown gave us a nicely rounded Jerry Lewis-like nerd and Eric Rasmussen’s smooth vocals were so in period.

But underscoring the show was the dancing and the music. Choreographer Michelle Lynch’s amazing routines were brilliant and kept on the move by Brisbane choreographer Callum Mansfield.

And the songs: Hungry Eyes, Hey Baby, Do You Love Me? Save the Last Dance for Me and of course (I've Had) The Time Of My Life were nostalgic to the core.

Dirty Dancing is a feel-good two hours of entertainment that will lift the hearts of the down-hearted and cheer up those feeling a bit blue.

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