Some movies cannot translate well to the stage. Dirty Dancing, at the Orpheum Theater until October 19, is one of them. The scenes were overly cheesy, and the transitions were choppy. While the dancing definitely was the focal point of the show, the singing and acting was subpar. When a movie is loved and touted by millions, the bar is set even higher. Unfortunately, this show did disappoint.
Dirty Dancing is the famous tale of Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jillian Mueller) who explores the ups and downs of growing up while on her family vacation. She gets involved with the Johnny Castle (Samuel Pergande), one of the dance instructors at the resort. She struggles with finding a balance between her newfound freedom and excitement and the expectations of her father who wants nothing but the best for his baby girl.
The cast is led by Jillian Mueller. While her dancing captivated the audience, her acting did not shine. Lacking this additional dimension stunted the energy of the show. Though the potential to be great was there, the mundane dynamic of the cast was a let-down. Mueller’s male lead, Samuel Pergande, wasn’t too noteworthy either. Although he stepped up in the dancing department, the lack of strong music and singing made it difficult to view him as a standout. The one character who did stun the audience was Penny Johnson (Jenny Winton). Her dancing was dazzling. Her key part in the dances really added some intrigue to the overall dull piece.
The most difficult part of the show was the translation. In a movie, scenes can be brief and disjointed. However, when on stage, short scenes can be awkward for the audience. Trying to throw in some light-hearted humor during these times magnifies the mediocrity, despite trying to liven things up. While there were some clever one-liners, nothing set the production apart from any other tour that comes through the Orpheum.
The misguided tendency to capture the wonder of cinema was also seen in the set. The entire back of the stage was filled with a digital screen that portrayed images of the setting. Having little else to accompany the background, the digital screen was too intrusive. It drew eyes away from the spectacular dancing and overall essence of the piece. The show would have benefitted from a simpler set, one that didn’t detract from the show. The technologically-heavy production didn’t match the time period of the piece. A show like Dirty Dancing doesn’t need to be like modern shows. It has an intrinsic value that shouldn’t be doubted.
If you are a Dirty Dancing fanatic, the show will not disappoint. All of the characters and dances will be fun and enjoyable. If you don’t know the show well, on the other hand, you may be confused with the rapid pace of the plot. It may seem to progress too quickly and the chemistry among characters will seem absent. This show is definitely targeted for the fans of the movie. Everyone else: be warned.