I 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.
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.