BWW Reviews: Have the Time of Your Life at DIRTY DANCING
No one puts Baby in a corner! Especially not in this stage adaptation of the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing. With the hit songs and recognizable dance moves from the movie, this show electrifies audiences as if they are taken into the movie itself.
The year is 1963. Frances "Baby" Houseman arrives to a resort retreat called Kellerman's with her family for a summer vacation. There she stumbles upon a staff cabin filled with people dancing with new style to an entrancing rhythm. Drawn in by the dancing, Baby befriends the entertainment staff at Kellerman's, including dance instructor, Johnny Castle. When things go awry for one of the staffers, Baby is quick to respond with help, landing her in a position to fill in as Johnny's dance partner. Romance blooms as Baby experiences things outside of the life she had previously known. Surrounded by the political tensions of the time, both Baby and Johnny learn to fight for what is right and just.
Adapted for the stage by the writer of the film, Eleanor Bergstein, Dirty Dancing remains truthful to the beloved movie with some strong additions of tunes and scenes not featured until now. All of the lines and songs fans of the movie are waiting to hear are freshly delivered in still a recognizable way. With guidance of director, James Powell, the stage adaption flows in and out of scene and song fluidly with many entertaining scene changes.
A set design by Stephen Brimson Lewis and Jon Driscoll features many screens that project stills and videos to set the scene, an interesting technological choice for a show set in 1963. Still, where sets and props are minimalistic, the set is never distracting and contributed to quick, flawless scene changes.
Choreographer, Michele Lynch, provides new choreography in a mix of the original choreography by Kate Champion. Lynch's choreography appears sleek as dancers fill the stage and at times dance on moving set pieces. While a challenge at times to focus on all of the different dancing at once, it cannot be said there is a lack of impressive dance moves in this production.
The bright light of this production is Jillian Mueller's portrayal of Frances "Baby" Houseman. Donned with a hairstyle and costumes to make her look similar to Jennifer Grey who portrayed Baby in the movie, Mueller gives Baby a youthful energy needed to give a new life to a character that has already been created for many audience members. Mueller takes the audience on a lovely journey from the naive Baby to the strong woman she becomes by the end of the show.
Other notable performances include the powerhouse dance couple of Johnny Castle and Penny Johnson, portrayed by Samuel Pergande and Jenny Winton respectively. Both displayed excellent dance skills while also showing strong characters throughout the scenes as well. Mark Elliot Wilson and Caralyn Kozlowski also gave significant performances as Baby's parents.
Dirty Dancing is unlike the traditional book musical where the lead characters break out into song. The emotions of the lead performers in Dirty Dancing are portrayed through both recorded and live music throughout the show. The two main singers for this production are Jannlee Shallow and Doug Carpenter who also play supporting roles. Both performers demonstrate mighty voices, but Carpenter's rendition of "In The Still of The Night" is a true showstopper and worth the price of a ticket to the show alone.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage is sure to please fans of the movie and those who have not seen the movie alike. With vibrant music and impressive dancing, Dirty Dancing will make audiences feel like they have also had the time of their lives and will make audiences want to get up and dance themselves.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage plays Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre ((660 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308) November 25-30, 2014, with a special Thanksgiving performance Thursday, November 27 at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased at FoxTheatre.org or by calling 1-855-285-8499.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy
From This Author Christie Fisher