In 1987, a thoughtful film set in 1963 brought the story of Baby and Johnny to the silver screen. In 2004, the stage version of “Dirty Dancing” debuted in Australia, and in 2016, it made its way to Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando.
I have to admit, though I loved the film when it first came out, I lost interest in it in recent years. The live performance reminded me how much I once loved the story, and all of that passion and awe from my childhood came flooding right back. The show is brilliantly re-conceived for the stage, and I was very impressed by the creative set design that maximized stage space. When you have ensemble cast dance scenes to accommodate, there’s often a sacrifice to the depth of the set, but the incorporation of digital screens and quick-shift elements makes for easy, intricate set transitions throughout the show.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage recreates the romantic drama, scene-by-scene. The most impactful lines of dialogue are delivered with every bit of emphasis and feeling as we saw in the film, and the performers duplicate their roles with just the right amount of individual flair to make the performance their own. They have the footwork, and they have the heart, to do the story justice. There are a few added scenes thrown in to the stage show, but they generally feel awkward, in my opinion. Call me a traditionalist, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While I appreciate the additional opportunities for a few highlight performers to demonstrate their jaw-dropping vocal ability in some unique musical scenes, the political statements and strange verbal exchanges woven into the added scenes are generally odd in the flow of the story.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage is unique in the sense that there is really so much strong talent on the stage. While the story focuses strongly on the relationship of Baby and Johnny, every character adds a layer of flavor to the tale, and every performer adds another layer of personal talent and dedication to the delivery. It is hard to categorize them as actors OR dancers, because they are equally strong on both ends of the spectrum. The music is familiar, and vibrantly re-created. The entire package will leave you fighting the urge to rise to your feet and break into a triumphant dance yourself. The vibe of the show well extends beyond the stage, and any show that embraces your soul is certainly worthy of being labeled a success.
As the show departs from Orlando after the final Dr. Phillips performance (April 3), it will move on to Naples, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Myers before heading northbound to New York. For more information on Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, click here or follow along on Facebook.