Hot, sensual, campy and fun are words I would describe the musical Dirty Dancing, which is currently playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Everyone is familiar with the movie version with the sexy Patrick Swayze, and now it can be seen live on stage! However, did it live up to its movie counterpart?
In case you’re not familiar the story is about a girl, Baby (played by Jillian Mueller), and her family who go on a three-week vacation at a resort in the Catskills; think of summer camp with the family. There she meets Johnny, (Samuel Pergande) a ballroom dancer who teaches her how to dance. There is an iconic lift in the middle and Baby’s father discovers the blossoming romance and forbids Baby from ever associating with him.
The musical in general stuck very true to the movie; heck they even tried to recreate the scene where Johnny and Baby are in the water attempting a lift, which is probably the most iconic scene of the movie. Overall it was a very pleasant experience.
The dancing! Boy I’ll hand it to all of the actors on stage; they were all fantastic dancers! From the opening scene with a sultry number I knew I was in for a good time. You can tell all of the dancers are well trained; they were all on point and I could not tell of any mistakes. By the time I left the theatre I was ready to sign up for my own ballroom classes (I wouldn’t mind it if it were the actor playing Johnny or Penny). Besides the dancing the music was good too; they had a live band playing and a few of the actors would take the lead. I was completely floored by Jenlee Shallow and Doug Carpenter; their voices are pure gold! Shallow had numbers throughout the show and I was amazed by all of her talent, you could tell she was really passionate. I was ready to jump out of my seat whenever she’d finish her number. Towards the end of the show Carpenter began to sing more; his rendition of “In the Still of the Night” was absolutely phenomenal! Carpenter can sing to me any time he wants haha.
So piggybacking the music, there were only a few actors that would normally sing and this short list did not include the main leads. I was expecting this to be a musical; ie leads and ensemble have songs that are used to carry a story. Boy was I wrong! This is more of an experience with music to help set the mood. It was more of the passion between the dancers. The only flaw of this adaptation are the scene changes; in the film it is easier to switch locations/ scenes just by cutting two and placing them together; however, this is a little more difficult to do so on stage. I appreciated the effort that was made, but at times I was confused when an actor would walk away towards a different part of the stage. It would take me a bit to realize that the scene had effectively changed by the different positions; It did help that there was a screen that projected different sceneries. At times it worked and others were just plain awkward; for example, that iconic scene where Baby and Johnny intent the lift while in the water was unremarkable. They brought down a screen in front of the actors and projected a field and water and the actors would effectively be in those settings. It would have been an ingenious way to recreate those scenes, but the actors were barely visible through the screen that much of the magic was lost.
Overall the show was quite enjoyable. It was campy, fun, and definitely passionate. Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage is highly recommended and it is currently playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from February 3rd to the 15th. You do not want to miss this fantastic adaptation and like they say: “nobody puts Baby in the corner.”