Dirty Dancing: Just sit back and enjoy!!!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Categories: Musical Theatre

If you saw the 1987 movie, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, then you know exactly how Dirty Dancing will play out on stage.

In many respects, the aim of the touring production currently at the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall, seems to be to reproduce the movie — hence the many scene changes and the use of video effects to deliver fields of waving grass, watery playgrounds and, of course, projections of dancers.

Despite the note in the program that the stage show contains a number of songs that were not included in the movie version, the film trumps the stage show, primarily because on stage the flimsy nature of the dated book is more evident.

But, as long as you understand that a show whose most famous line is “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” is unlikely to have a complex and meaningful script or message and that there will be only passing references to major events of historical importance, you can just sit back and enjoy a blast of high energy, some good dancing and a couple of fine singers. Soloists Doug Carpenter and Jennlee Shallow do a particularly fine job.

In the dance department, Jenny Winton, as the unfortunate Penny, is a graceful delight. In the key role of the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, holiday camp dance instructor Johnny, the muscular Samuel Pergande is a strong dancer, though somewhat passionless when speaking.

Gillian Abbott is a pleasing Baby — though she could have been costumed more attractively than in unflattering long shorts — and she and Pergande bring some fire to their final dance sequence.

Such moments as the silliness of shoving ice down the villain’s pants or the awkward, supposedly funny solos of a mock Hawaiian love song and an apparent attempt to copy Elvis Presley’s pelvic grinds are embarrassing failures.

Nevertheless, the Broadway Across Canada presentation of Dirty Dancing is quite entertaining, even if the weak storyline is more than a little dated after three decades in a changed world.

Dirty Dancing

By Eleanor Bergstein

Broadway Across Canada

At the National Arts Centre

Director: James Powell

Music supervisor: Conrad Helfrich

Choreography: Michele Lynch

Set: Stephen Brimson Lewis

Lighting: Tim Mitchell

Sound: Bobby Aitken

Videos and projections: Jon Driscoll

Costumes: Jennifer Irwin

Cast:

Frances “Baby” houseman………………………………………Gillian Abbott

Elizabeth/singer………………………………………………….Jennlee Shallow

Dr. Jake Houseman………………………………………………Mark Eliot Wilson

Marjorie Houseman………………………………………………Caralyn Kozlowski

Lisa Houseman……………………………………………………Emily Rice

Billy/singer……………………………………………………….Doug Carpenter

Max Kellerman……………………………………………………Gary Lynch

Neil Kellerman…………………………………………………….Ryan Jesse

Penny Johnson…………………………………………………….Jenny Winton

Johnny Castle……………………………………………………..Samuel Pergande

Mr. Schumacher…………………………………………………..Herman Petras

Robbie…………………………………………………………….Scott McCreary

Tito Suarez…………………………………………………..Jerome Harmann-Hardeman

Vivian Pressman………………………………………………….Amanda Brantley

Moe Pressman/Sheldrake MC…………………………………….John Antony

Ensemble: John Antony, Rachel Boone, Amanda Brantley, Rashaan James II, Joshua Keith, Michael Milton, Phoebe Pearl, Virginia Preston, Jennlee Shallow, Christopher Tierney

Orchestra:

Conductor/keyboard: Alan J. Plado

Matt Brown, Cam Collins, Rick Donato, Miles Lassi, Brad Lovelace, Michael Robb, Nick Williams


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