“Dirty Dancing” at the Orpheum Theatre: Translations are tricky

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Dirty Dancing is a great movie. Its purpose is for sleepovers on Saturday nights with a couple of teenage friends who just want to zone out for a couple of hours and watch a cutesy story. And that purpose is served well. However, the musical version is a different story.

Some movies just don’t translate effectively onto the stage. Dirty Dancing is one of these. The most major problem with the translation is the cheesy script. Certain lines don’t sound natural. They can jar you and suspend your disbelief momentarily. Like when the older sister gets threatened and replies, “You wouldn’t!” It’s wasn’t delivered in a way that sounded believable. This is in only a small part due to the acting interpretation, and majorly due to a fault in the script. A script can’t be effective if it’s a faulty script, no matter how good the actors are. While the cheesiness may work in the movie, it simply doesn’t translate well onstage.

This may also be due to the fact that I was not a massive fan of the acting and directorial choices in the way of Baby (Jillian Mueller). I found her styling to look a bit too young, almost middle school, in the beginning, making it seem uncomfortable that she was being lured in by college guys. She was also lacking an important chemistry connection with Johnny (Samuel Pergande). I didn’t feel their emotion in the acting as much as I felt it when they were dancing.

On the note about dancing, that was one of the few saving graces of the show, as it should be with the title Dirty Dancing. Penny (Jenny Winton) could dance with effortless grace and skill, her acting was ridiculously unbelievable and subpar. But she could dance. Her mambo in the beginning was one of passion – passion in her demeanor and character, and passion for her craft.

Ultimately, Dirty Dancing has few redeeming qualities that make for a valid source of entertainment. However, if, as a teenage girl, you remember having sleepovers where you watched Dirty Dancing while playing Truth or Dare, the musical just might take you back to those days. That seems to be its purpose anyway.