It is not an easy feat to bring a classic movie to life on a stage; the audience will always compare the story they fell in love with on screen to the portrayal of it on a stage. However, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, performed at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, does a wonderful job recreating the scenes and songs we all know and love from Dirty Dancing the film.
One of the most notable achievements of the performance is the casting of the characters. Rachel Boone, who plays Francis “Baby” Houseman, does an outstanding job of portraying Baby’s wide-eyed, eager, and transformative character. Boone recreates Baby’s awkward but endearing character with ease, and she even has Baby’s recognizable dirty blonde, full-bodied curls. During Baby’s unrelenting rehearsal scenes in which she is trying to learn how to dance, Boone’s gracelessness and inability to move almost makes you believe that she has no actual talent as a dancer, until you discover that she actually is so talented that she is able to effortlessly pretend that she is indeed clumsy. Once her character develops rhythm and grace, Boone then wows the audience with her true artistic prowess, and it is that much more gratifying to watch because of the character’s evident progress.
Another noteworthy performance comes from Christopher Tierney, who plays Johhny Castle. From the moment Tierney emerges on stage, the audience is struck by his physical and vocal resemblance to Patrick Swayze. But his resemblance to the late actor surely is not the only reason he was cast for the role. Tierney demonstrates phenomenal dancing and acting throughout the production that captivates the audience’s attention and holds it steadfast. With training from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Les Jazz Ballet Jazz du Montreal, there is no denying Tierney’s dancing accomplishments and mastery, especially upon seeing him perform as Castle in this production.
The set of the production was also very uniquely and thoughtfully designed. With so many scenes ranging from Kellerman’s, the staff quarters, Johnny’s house, and the other various places where Baby and Johnny rehearse as well as perform, the set designers were able to create a set that could change and flow as the production calls for. The stage was adjacent to a backdrop of tall, cream-colored shutters that lined a screen which brought each scene to life through picture and video effects. The crew was even able to create the scenes where Baby and Johnny practice their iconic lift in the forest, the field, and the water, in a comedic and charming fashion.
The colors that glitter each set are also something that catches the eye. Scenes of sensual dancing are caressed by glowing red lights, further enhancing feelings of passion and intensity. Pink and blue lights light the stage during the characters’ expressions of excitement and joy. Throughout the scene of Baby’s day-by-day transition from uncoordinated to uninhibited, her relentless rehearsing and practicing is illuminated by a bright green glow, depicting Baby’s renewal and her growth as a character as well as the growth of her talent.
However, as fantastic as the dancing is, the portrayal of the storyline feels slightly rushed. The first act is sporadic and hurried at times, which creates feelings of tension. The scene in which it is revealed that Penny is pregnant is confusing and not explained well, leaving the audience wondering, “how did that go in the movie?”
There are also scenes in which the arguing or fighting between characters seems to escalate but never climax. The conversations seem to just fizzle out as the characters exit opposites sides of the stage in frustration.
Despite minor script issues, this performance was unquestionably enjoyable. It was an honor and a pleasure to witness this classic love story come alive on stage, and those who cherish this timeless story will appreciate its recreation in the theatre.
Directed by James Powell
Stars Rachel Boone & Christopher Tierney
Release Date: February 2, 2016