THEATRE: “Dirty Dancing” a movie critics review

Live at the Moran Theater in the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts

December 9 – 14, 2014

Grade: A-

Directed by: James Powell

Adapted for Stage by: Eleanor Bergstein

Original Choreography by: Kate Champion

Jillian Mueller as Frances “Baby” Houseman

Samuel Pergande as Johnny Castle

Jenny Winton as Penny Johnson

Sam Edgerly as Robbie

Mark Elliot Wilson as Dr. Jake Houseman

“Have the Time of Your life”

The timeless love story of Baby and Johnny hits the stage this week at the Moran Theater at the Times Union Center for Performing Arts.  Dirty Dancing hit theaters by storm the summer of 1987 and became one of the most beloved romantic movies of all time.   The film and stage adaptation chronicles the romance between Frances “Baby” Houseman and Johnny Castle at Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills, New York in 1963.  The film launched Patrick Swayze’s career and went on to gross more than $214 million.

“Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner!”

 Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage captures the essence of the iconic film with 20 new scenes and additional music.   Writer Eleanor Bergstein wanted to include certain songs like This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance for Me”, but was unable to secure the rights from the composers at the time of film production.  She later obtained the rights and included them in the stage production that debuted in Australia in 2004.

The stage production is something fans of the romantic comedy won’t want to miss. The two-act live performance is complete with sensational dancing, some steamy scenes, famous one-liners, and music of 1963.   It was wonderfully adapted for stage with outstanding choreography and set designs that blended modern technology with traditional set design.  I was delighted to see images from the film incorporated into the vibrant sets.

Director Powell did an incredible job casting.  The energetic cast led by Jillian Mueller and Samuel Pergande carry the audience along with ease.   Mueller is brilliant as Baby and Pergande’s classical ballet training is evident throughout the production.  He commands the stage with his strength, striking features, musicality and moves. I thought they had great chemistry together.

The sound was clear, just the right volume and key to the overall performance.   I loved the way two terrific vocalists who brought the music to life on stage.  Doug Carpenter who plays Johnny’s cousin and Billy Kostecki’s performance of “In the Still of the Night” took my breath away. Equally breathtaking is Jennlee Shallow as a soloist and counterpart to Carpenter.  The band, led by Alan Plado was uniquely set above the stage.

The stage show delivers what the title promises. Dance your way to the Moran Theater this week for a magical evening that will make you want to learn the Mambo.


About A.S. MacLeod