“Dirty Dancing” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ February 19, 2015



Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage

Tempe, AZ

The 2006 London stage version of the 1987 movie phenomenon “Dirty Dancing” arrived at ASU Gammage Tuesday but it’s just a tired re-creation of the film without any additional creativity or any added excitement.  If you are familiar with the popular movie, there’s nothing new here.  There’s no additional plot development, the characters aren’t any different, and the lifted popular 1980s style tunes from the film are still used, although a few additional period tunes that weren’t previously available have been dropped in but add nothing.  One still wonders why ‘80s music was used for a plot set in the ‘60s.  I don’t think logical questions should ever be applied to “Dirty Dancing.”

If you loved the film, there’s no reason to see it on stage and if the movie wasn’t your thing, why see it now?  The dancing remains fast and furious, the sets use some clever projection devices to suggest the luxuriousness of the resort setting but the stage show lacks the splendor of the film’s scenery.  The cast is competent but certainly doesn’t possess the throbbing sexual intensity of film headliners Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.  What is most missing from the stage treatment is the film’s driving energy.  Only the finale finally catches the fire the show lacks.

For those who haven’t seen the film, a quick mention of dull witted plot.  At a fancy Catskills vacation resort in the ‘60s, we focus on the well-to-do Houseman family.  During their summer sojourn, the family’s two sheltered daughters discover life.  The youngest, Frances or “Baby,” learns a lot about life and some jiving dancing as she falls hard for Johnny, her instructor.  Johnny gets his way with most girls and we discover many consequences of his careless actions.  By the end, Baby and Johnny are a duo.  The few additional plot details add little although many of the capacity opening night audience seemed perfectly happy with a carbon of the film as they cheered frequently.  The loud, rockin’ score is filled with retreads as no new songs were written for the film or the stage version.  The sound system doesn’t allow much understanding of the bland lyrics.

People seemed the enjoy the show at Tuesday’s opening because they cheered the familiar alluring dance moves, but why trek to ASU Gammage when you can just rent the now almost 30-year-old movie.  I’m told that few tickets remain for “Dirty Dancing” that plays through Sunday, February 21.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C