Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage #32

dd-imageI will admit that going to see this show was purely a nostalgia trip. This production has been floating around for a few years and as much as I revile the movie to musical trend this one seemed like a no brainer. How could this not be turned into, if not a good show, at least an entertaining show; a show that plays on the nostalgia of ones youth, or at least my youth. Well the producers managed to find a way. It was bad.

Lest you think I am unduly biased because of my disdain for the movie-musical trend or my love of the original movie (which is not insignificant) I have brought on board a guest reviewer, a disinterested third party who has no emotional skin in the game, to validate my opinion. Broadway Babe while young is not inexperienced in theater both as an audience member and a performer.

There are very few things I really enjoyed about the show. The dancing was great but everything else was less than adequate. Samuel Pergande and Jillian Mueller as Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman had NO chemistry on stage. The ensemble was quite good and had some great dance numbers and Emily Rice was very entertaining as Lisa when she sang Hula Hana song (The one intentionally funny part of the show). Easily, Jennlee Shallow, as Elizabeth and Doug Carpenter as Billy, were the best part of the show and their performance did justice to the songs. The live band was very good but they almost never used them in the production. It was also strange that the leads in the show never sang a word, unlike most musicals where the leads sing most of the songs. They were good dancers but that is all they truly had going for them. Overall the production needs a lot of work.

Broadway Babe

See…it not just me. I did notice later that they’re not calling the show a musical; it’s “The Classic Story On Stage;” whatever that means. I think it means they were too cheap to hire actors who can dance, act AND sing; so they compromised and hired people who can dance (albeit very well) and are able to speak (don’t confuse that with acting.) If nothing else this production has manged to elevate Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s performances to be Olivier-esque in comparison; I suppose that’s some sort of achievement. 

To end I would like to take a moment and mention my utter disgust and disappointment in a audience that would give this performance a standing ovation. I know it’s a battle lost and certainly no one (I hope) had high expectations for this show but a show such as this deserved polite applause at most. I did cheer loudly (while seated) for Ms. Shallow and Mr. Carpenter for providing the one bright spot in a sea of mediocrity.

5 thoughts on “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage #32

  • September 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm
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    Sorry, that post should have been a reply!

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  • September 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm
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    For me, the decision to give a standing ovation reflects not just (or even primarily) my opinion of the underlying show, but it also reflects what I perceive as the efforts I feel is put in to the performance by the cast and the musicians. I try to recognize that their performances are constrained by the directors and others, so I concentrate on whether I feel their performances, as individuals and a group, even in less than stellar shows, merit polite applause, a standing ovation, or somewhere in-between.

    I admit that I am probably not what you would consider a sophisticated theater-goer, and I only see a few plays a year (I did just recently see “Once” at the Hippodrome in Baltimore, which I also liked) but I do try to remember that each of those (mostly) young people I see on stage have devoted their lives to a difficult and physically demanding profession while living out of a suitcase for years at a time just to entertain us. While I cannot speak for “the surrounding [unwashed] masses,” I see no harm in recognizing and encouraging the cast with my standing ovation. It costs me nothing, and indeed, it makes this senior citizen feel good!

    P.S. I am not trying to start a big argument with you. You obviously love the theater and the theater need people like you to survive. I think your blog is very informative and interesting, I just felt you went a little too intense in your criticism. Best regards.

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    • September 19, 2014 at 8:10 pm
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      I know that what your’e saying is why many people give standing ovations. I have great respect for the effort it takes to put together a show and I always applaud regardless of how good (or bad) a show may be; when a show is very good I applaud long and loudly; when a show is exceptional I am usually on my feet before I even think to do it. Of course the nature of art makes such things entirely subjective.

      For me giving every show a standing ovation is like giving everyone in the Olympics a gold medal, there isn’t an athlete there that hasn’t put in vast amounts of effort and made sacrifices, but not everyone gets a medal. If its any consolation I also am very critical of people who immediately start heading out of the theater, I find that incredibly rude.

      I will admit, that disappointment does often make me a harsh critic, but I I’m just being honest about how I felt about the show and I try not to “grade” on a curve. Either way I appreciate your comments. Thanks for reading.

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  • September 13, 2014 at 9:37 am
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    I disagree with your review of this show, which I saw at the National Theater in DC on 9/12/14. I thought the music, dancing and acting were great. The audience loved it. As far as your “utter disgust and disappointment in a[n] audience that would give this performance a standing ovation,” you just gratuitously insulted about 500 theater-goers (plus many others who attended on other days). If you are the only person in an entire theater who is still seated at the end of a performance, perhaps some self-refection is in order.

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    • September 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm
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      You must have a seen a different show than I did. Standing ovations are a BIG pet peeve of mine. They should be reserved for exceptional shows and it has become nearly rote, especially for musicals. This was no where close to being an exceptional show, for me it was distinctly mediocre. I suppose “vastly disappointed” would have been a less pejorative turn of phrase. And next time it happens I’ll definitely spend some time reflecting on whether I should form my personal opinion based on those of the surrounding masses.

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