After the runaway success of 1987’s movie musical starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey with a soundtrack that scored an Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy, it was only a matter of time before “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage” set its sights on Broadway. And before it arrived in the Big Apple, audiences right here in Chicago got an initial 2008 glimpse, followed by a current run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre that features some much needed tweaks, but still has room to fine tune.
“(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” and the couple’s lift conquest scene are probably worth the price of admission alone for die-hards and there are surely enough to give “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage” another fruitful run, even if it’s not as likely to make the lifetime list for the rest.
Like the film and first edition, the tour also traces a coming of age tale for 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman (Gillian Abbott), who’s on vacation with her wealthy family at the swanky Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills but quickly falls under the spell of older dance instructor Johnny Castle (Christopher Tierney). Thankfully, each of the leads are dead-on in their delivery of signature chorography set to the beats of golden oldies (“Do You Love Me?,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “In The Still Of The Night”), a few less timeless ‘80s tunes (“Hungry Eyes,” “She’s Like The Wind”), plus a handful of additions that don’t pack the familiar punch of either.Along the way, many of the outdoor scenes from the spacious estate are simulated on video screens, some which are actually improved from the first go around (like the less cumbersome log dance lesson), but general transitions and a few added effects remain awkward. Instead of being surrounded by last round’s sheets of flowing fabric to signify their air lift attempts in the river, Baby and Johnny are now shown behind a transparent screen replicating the waves, which is more convincing in concept but undercut by the fact that not a single drop of water actually emanates from anyone’s hair or bodies.
Shortcomings aside, those who’ve already fallen in love with the iconic dance steps and regularly repeated lines like “I carried a watermelon” and “nobody puts Baby in a corner” won’t be disappointed. They’ll also be treated to the recording contract-ready voices of Doug Carpenter (Billy) and Jennlee Shallow (Elizabeth) who knock the finale duet “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” completely out of the park. That song and the couple’s lift conquest scene are probably worth the price of admission alone for die-hards and there are surely enough to give “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage” another fruitful run, even if it’s not as likely to make the lifetime list for the rest.
“Dirty Dancing” continues various dates and times at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through August 30. For additional details and ticket information, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com.