Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
January 9, 2015
So, does it deliver on its title? Yes, it does. “Dirty Dancing” has plenty of sexy moves. But it starts showing them right up at the top of the national touring production, not holding off till the climax, so to speak.
Every line and scene you know and love from the cult 1987 movie is there, and when, two plus hours in, Johnny says, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” he brings down the very full house.
Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote the original screenplay, also does writing duty on the musical adaptation, which premiered ten years ago in Australia and has toured Europe and the U.S., but has never yet been on Broadway. There are a few additions, mostly superfluous, and a sort of lame attempt to heighten the Civil Rights background to the action. But the main event, as always, is the sizzling romance between brainy 17 year-old Baby, and the Bad Boy dance instructor at the Catskills resort where her family is spending several summer weeks in 1963.
Using projections – including the actual lodge from the film – ingenious design allows for Baby and Johnny to practice their dance routines on a log and in the water. Cleverly done.
With an onstage band hovering over the action, all the songs you remember are there, from “Be My Baby” to “The Time of My Life.” The solo singers are superb. The dancers are fine, though the choreography is repetitive. The acting overall leaves a good deal to be desired. Except for Jillian Mueller as Baby, the only one who doesn’t seem to be acting. As Johnny, Samuel Pergande , who has danced with the American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey Ballet, is lithe and pelvically agile. He’s not so great when he opens his mouth, but that’s not what he’s there for. The two of them have terrific chemistry, and their big dance finale is great.
There isn’t much new and exciting here. But if you’re a diehard fan of the film, you just might have the time of your life.
“Dirty Dancing” runs through January 11, at the Civic Theatre downtown.
©2015 PAT LAUNER