Friday, February 20, 2015

reviews - DIRTY DANCING - National Tour, ASU/Gammage

Samuel Pergande and Jillian Mueller
Photo: Matthew Murphy
"Dirty Dancing, now with the tagline "The Classic Story on Stage," keeps all of the famous hit film tunes, as well as an almost word for word transfer of the screenplay. However, unlike recent well reviewed movie to stage transfers, there is no new original stage score to speak of, so it's almost like a play with music. But the biggest missing piece is that Dirty Dancing isn't really an actual "musical," in that, while they do a lot of dancing, none of the main cast does any singing. Fortunately, there are exceptional singers in the supporting cast who deliver the hit tunes from the film's soundtrack as well as belt out several classics, and, overall, the show ends up being a crowd pleaser due to the energetically executed dancing and the theatricality of the entire experience. However, it's far from perfect as a stage musical. Eleanor Bergstein adapted her screenplay for the stage and, while all of the main memorable and iconic scenes and lines from the film are retained, she hasn't done a good enough job as far as the requirements of character development are for the theatre. There are many scenes that end abruptly, just like in the film, and while they may work fine on screen where we can see close-ups of the actors to better understand their emotions, it just falls flat on stage. There are many moments that cry out for a character to break into song to impart their inner feelings or emotions; instead we just get a hasty change to the next scene. Director James Powell does an exceptional job of providing a cinematic and swift flow to the show... the several memorable (dance numbers) from the film are knock-outs when seen live on stage. It is in these moments when the show really becomes alive, though there are far too few of those moments. "Nostalgic" and "feel-good" are the two adjectives that come to mind when talking about the film Dirty Dancing and the same could be said of the stage adaptation. While an actual musical version of the story could prove quite effective, with original songs sung by the characters in order for us to better understand their thoughts and emotions, the stage version is still a fun time with a story full of romance, humor and almost non-stop dancing. While people who have never seen the film may not exactly have the "time of their life," most fans of the movie will find the stage version an addictive, fun-filled, enjoyable experience." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"The stage version of Dirty Dancing...  just a tired re-creation of the film without any additional creativity or any added excitement.  If you are familiar with the popular movie, there’s nothing new here.  There’s no additional plot development, the characters aren’t any different, and the lifted popular 1980's style tunes from the film are still used, although a few additional period tunes that weren’t previously available have been dropped in but add nothing.  One still wonders why ‘80s music was used for a plot set in the ‘60s.  If you loved the film, there’s no reason to see it on stage and if the movie wasn’t your thing, why see it now?   The cast is competent but certainly doesn’t possess the throbbing sexual intensity of film headliners Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.  What is most missing from the stage treatment is the film’s driving energy.  Only the finale finally catches the fire the show lacks.  The few additional plot details add little although many of the capacity opening night audience seemed perfectly happy with a carbon of the film as they cheered frequently.  People seemed to enjoy the show at Tuesday’s opening because they cheered the familiar alluring dance moves, but why trek to ASU Gammage when you can just rent the now almost 30-year-old movie." -Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

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