NME After Print - Dirty Dancing lives up to its name
If you have seen the hit movie, Dirty Dancing, it isn't far-fetched turning it into a musical. For us die hard "DD" fans, the idea of making this classic "boy meets girl" story with some of the greatest dancing and music put on film left us wondering if it can live up to the hype. The opening night at Popejoy Hall had my friend, Allison, and I taking a seat and preparing ourselves for either an evening of rejoicing or a night of regret.
The show opened with a creative staging of "Be My Baby", bringing the memorable opening sequence from the movie live on stage. As the show went on it didn't disappoint. Bronwyn Reed, who plays Francis "Baby" Houseman, WAS "Baby". She brought the awkwardness that I remembered, but she flowered into the strong, confident woman in the end.
Lisa, played by Alyssa Brizzi, was on 10 the whole show, offering some fantastic (The Hulu Song during the Kellerman's auditions) and not so great moments. The scene in the movie where Baby and her father are not speaking and Lisa offers a touching sisterly moment truly showed her vulnerability. Brizzi's "espresso" performance during that scene, unfortunately, was the one moment in the musical that didn't mesh well.
Jennifer Mealani Jones, who will forever be known as Legs McGee to me, embodied the role of Penny Johnson. Her extensions went on for days and she stole the show in every scene she appeared in. She truly is one of the strongest dancers that I've seen on stage.
The show had standout moments from Jerome Harmann Hardeman (Tito Suarez), Chante Carmel (Elizabeth - with a voice that will melt your face off), and Alan Scharf (Mr. Schumacher - I'll never see him the same way again). But, when it came to Johnny, I was going to be a stickler. Being a 12-year-old little girl and seeing Patrick Swayze dancing across that screen in those tight pants was life-changing. Johnny was the ultimate heartthrob and the person who would take on the role has some big shoes to fill. Christopher Tierney made Swayze proud on that stage. The man can move, he's expressive, and honestly, he could have just stand on stage and read the phone book with that voice of his. The production made the perfect casting choice with Tierney.
The production lived up to his name, hitting every key moment from the movie, including the famous lift. But the production took liberties with the script that expanded the show and breathed, even more, life into it, including the "story within a story" relationship of Elizabeth & Billy (Chante Carmel and Jordan Edwin André) and the dance training session with Tito and Johnny.
Now, the music. As I said before, it's all right there! The show had the classics "She's Like the Wind," "Hungry Eyes," and "Love Man," but the production added to the score with a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and a chilling performance of "We Shall Overcome" by Chante Carmel. They used the music to intertwine with the storyline and did an excellent job in doing so.
I have such wonderful memories from Dirty Dancing. This musical brought them all back to the surface and created new ones. All "DD" fans need to experience it. All dancers and lovers of dance should experience it. Become your 12-year-old self again with Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage.
Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage runs from June 15th-18th at Popejoy Hall. Tickets are available at http://popejoypresents.com/2016-2017-season/dirty-dancing