Posted on 25 January 2012

It is surprising how many people still enquire about tickets for Dirty Dancing in London even though it has been out of the West End since July 2011.  The show had a successful five year run at the Aldwych Theatre and racked up the largest pre sales of any West End show when it opened in 2006, selling out its first six months before it even opened.  Although currently in the middle of a two year UK tour it is still one of the most popular choices of theatregoers looking for West End shows.

Luckily there are a number of productions with similar themes and tone to sate an audience's appetite.   Dirty Dancing:The Classic Story On Stage is one of a wave of successful translations of cult classic films that have made their way to the stage.   Many have enjoyed success include Grease, Fame and Hairspray;  yet others like Flashdance & Desperately Seeking Susan failed to strike a chord with the public - the latter of which lasting for just 13 performances after its opening night in 2007.

So where to look when you discover your trip to see Dirty Dancing in London is a non-starter?  Ghost is the newest hit movie adaptation in the West End.  The original 1990 film was a box office smash starring Patrick Swayze as banker Sam Wheat, tragically killed by street robbers, Demi Moore as his grieving potter widow and Whoopi Goldberg as crazy medium Oda Mae Brown that tries to reunite them.  Following Sam's death he is caught between this world and the next and as he realises that Molly is still in danger his love must break through to her to save her.  The stage production stays true to the original story but adds songs…what's not to love?   The show's score is written by The Eurythmics' Dave Stewart along with Glen Ballard, who wrote Michael Jackson's timeless classic Man In The Mirror.  The production has charmed critics and public alike as is still selling strongly, recently extending its booking period to October 2012 and looking very likely to re-extend beyond that.

Another option is Legally Blonde.  The show has been in residence at the Savoy Theatre since it opened to glowing reviews in January 2010, winning three Olivier Awards including Best New Musical.  Original Elle, Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps star Sheridan Smith, enjoyed playing the lead role so much she ended up extending her planned tenure in the show a couple of times before finally bowing out in early 2011.  The original 2001 film cemented Reese Witherspoon's place as a box office leading lady and even spawned a sequel.  The show follows sorority girl Elle Woods who decides to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner by showing him she is more than a blonde airhead by enrolling in his law school.  Accompanied by her dog Bruiser she surprises those around her by excelling in her casework by applying her own unique brand of logic to situations.  As well as being wickedly funny, the audience roots for Elle and wills her to triumph against the odds.  The underlying message of the show is to be the best version of yourself that you can.  This is an important part of why the show has seen such success on stage and its uplifting tone has made it the perfect choice for hen nights, office parties and a cross section of ages.

Mamma Mia! is still a West End darling and is the perfect example of stage and screen crossover.  The show actually began its life onstage in April 1999 - hard to believe it has been wowing audience's for over a decade.  Catherine Johnson's Greek-set original story is creatively intertwined with classic ABBA hits and was immediately taken to the public's hearts.  We follow 20-year-old Sophie in the build up to her wedding with Sky on the beautiful island of Calicos.  Not knowing who her father is she finds her mother's diary from around the time she would have been conceived and invites the three possible options to her wedding.  Her mother Donna is aghast when her  former suitors turn up leading to all kinds of humorous mayhem and soul searching.   The instantly recognisable ABBA songs are threaded through the storyline both enhancing and puncturing the tension in an extremely funny way.   The stage show was such a success that it led to the 2008 film version starring Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan.  The movie went on to be the highest grossing movie musical of all time, inevitably helping sustain the show's onstage momentum.

All of these shows are a great alternative for those who were hoping to see Dirty Dancing in the West End.  The audience's prior knowledge of the film version usually enhances people's excitement when seeing the show, as they can revel in a live version of a movie they already love.  In these times a show must be a hit, so producers frequently rely on tried and tested stories with a built in fanbase to help with initial interest in a production.  However with the raft of new shows that are being produced, only the best stay the course.  The continued interest in the above can help put a potential visitor more at ease that they will be seeing something they too are likely to love though not Dirty Dancing!