Everyone knows “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and now more than 25 years after its theatrical release ‘Dirty Dancing’ is just as popular now as it was then. Possibly even more popular. Which is great incentive to bring the classic love story to life on the stage. Based in large part on writer Eleanor Bergstein’s childhood summers in the Catskills in the 1960’s, Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage isn’t the large, splashy musical we’ve come to expect. Instead this production is true to the movie with spectacular dancing and just the right amount of singing to accent certain scenes.
Jillian Mueller is perfection as Baby. From where I was sitting she has an uncanny resemblance to Jennifer Grey. Which adds to the allusion of watching the movie. Samuel Pergande is a classically trained dancer which only adds to his sizzling turn as Johnny Castle. Its hard to fill the dance shoes Patrick Swayze donned in the movie, but Pergande has all the right moves to make the original Johnny extremely proud.
There isn’t the traditional song and dance numbers you expect, instead the songs we love from the movie are played at all the spots we’d expect by either the live onstage band or a recording. The only actors singing are soloists Jennlee Shallow and Doug Carpenter. Carpenter brought the house down with his soulful rendition of “In The Still Of The Night (I’ll Remember)”. Shallow’s and Carpenter’s duet on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” added emotion and electricity to the iconic closing dance between Baby and Johnny that brought the audience to their feet.
Stephen Brimson Lewis’ set design of a simple wood slat design and use of scrims combined with Tim Mitchell’s lighting design and use of projections is simple, yet theatrical magic in recreating the numerous locations around Kellerman’s in the Catskills. Choreographer Kate Champion and Tour Choreographer Michelle Lynch beautifully recreate the famous choreography from the movie. Painstakingly making sure the iconic dance scenes between Baby and Johnny are perfection.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage is a perfect night at the theatre for die-hard Dirty Dancing fans. You won’t find any creative liberties taken to make this show a classic musical. Because it’s not. This show is a play with music. What you will find is a cult classic film, given a new life live on stage.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage is playing at the Orpheum Theatre through October 19. For more information on the show visit Hennepin Theatre Trust’s website.