Get ready to have the “Time of your Life” as the 1987 movie classic “Dirty Dancing” comes to life on stage! This week, Washingtonians gathered at the historic National Theater for the opening night of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage.
For those who have you seen the timeless “Dirty Dancing,” I will give you a brief synopsis. This was the film that put Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey on the map! The sleeper hit of the year made its fans want to BE Johnny Castle and Frances “Baby” Houseman. The movie takes place in 1963, where Baby and her family are to spend a wonderful summer at the Kellerman Resort in the Catskills. It doesn’t take too long for our Baby to swoon over the the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle. I feel you know the rest from here. So, I’ll just give you the review.
There is no better way to end our glorious summer with a bang or, in this case, the drumbeats to the Ronettes’ hit “Be My Baby.” We are truly blessed to be the launching pad for its North American tour. The musical captures our attention from the first time we see Baby look at Johnny to the final leap in the air. I guaranteed once you see this musical, you will want to run back home and watch the movie all over again to appreciate its beauty.
For me, when it comes to recapturing the spirit on iconic movie characters on the stage, you cannot have any margin for errors. Whoever was responsible for the musical’s casting got it down cold! The chemistry of Johnny and Baby, played by the amazingly talented Samuel Pergande and Jillian Mueller truly radiates from the stage to every seat in the theatre. Pergande captures the essence of Johnny Castle on stage. His moves alone will take your breath away. Jillian Mueller deftly portrays a teen who can’t dance at the beginning of the show who becomes a natural by the final scene. Speaking of naturals, did you know that this is her second time performing in musical based on a 1980’s movie? She played Alex in the musical “Flashdance” late last year at the Kennedy Center. After seeing their performance, I honestly cannot say who did it better, Swayze & Grey or Pergande & Mueller. You be the judge and tell me.
Everyone knows that there are certain moments of “Dirty Dancing” you are just waiting for. You will certainly cheer when Johnny delivers the line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” and you will laugh hysterically when Baby’s sister Lisa, played by Emily Rice, delivers a humorous, awful rendition of “Hula” for the talent show.
Dirty Dancing isn’t Dirty Dancing unless you have some impressive choreography and powerhouse vocals to back it up. To Director James Powell, Choreographer Michele Lynch and original Choreographer Kate Champion, I tip my hat to you for an outstanding job! Two voices I will never forget after leaving National Theatre that night were that of Jennlee Shallow and Doug Carpenter. They provide the soundtrack for most of the show and are magnificent. Shallow’s soulful rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” sounds so sweet and Doug Carpenter’s rendition of “In the Still of the Night” is incredibly moving. Shallow and Carpenter team up for a dynamic performance of “I’ve Had the Time of my Life” that brought the house up on its feet.
As a American history buff, I appreciate how the musical brings some social commentary on the events of 1963. They reference the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Freedom Riders and play a passage of the “I Have a Dream” speech. I was impressed how they fit in a little history without taking away the essence of the plot.
If you’re a fan of “Dirty Dancing” you MUST see this show. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past three decades and have not yet discovered “Dirty Dancing,” then GO SEE IT and have the Time of Your Life!
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage plays through September 14, 2014 at The National Theatre – in Washington, DC. This play runs at about 2 hours 15 minutes, including a 20 minute intermission. For tickets, call (800) 514-3849 or purchase them online or by visiting the National Theatre Box Office.