Show and Tell: Review of 'Dirty Dancing' at the Paramount Theatre
Steamy dancing, fantastic music in this coming-of-age story
The bottom line
In this stage adaptation of the 1987 hit movie, playing at The Paramount through Feb. 1, it is the summer of 1963. Seventeen-year-old Frances “Baby”Houseman goes to an exclusive resort for vacation with her parents and older sister. Baby gets more than she bargained for when she asks Johnny, the resort’s dance instructor, to teach her to dance. Romance blooms in this coming-of-age story as Baby learns about life and love. You’ll have the time of your life at this stellar production, but note that it's recommended for at least ages 10 and up because of sexual content, and a difficult plot. (See below for more details.)
In Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, Baby is a naive, hopeful 17-year-old who wants to change the world. Bored with the resort’s organized activities, Baby wanders into a dance party in which the resort staff is dancing to rock ‘n’ roll music. Baby is mesmerized by the sexy dancing and begs the lead dance instructor, Johnny Castle, to teach her. Johnny agrees and shows her a few moves. Later, when one of the female dancers has to drop out of an important audition, Baby offers to take her place and she and Johnny begin dance lessons in secret.
The Paramount Theatre's set is minimal and unique. The live orchestra is perched above the stage, and famous scenes from the movie, such as when Baby and Johnny are balancing on a log in the river and practicing lifts in the lake, are accomplished by video projections of outdoor scenes, to the delight of the audience. "In the Still of the Night" is movingly sung by vocalist Doug Carpenter. His duet performance with Jennlee Shallow of "I’ve Had the Time of my Life" practically brought down the house. But the ultimate star of the show is the dancing, which is sizzling hot and high energy, especially in Jenny Winton's turn as Penny.
The show is ripe with coming-of-age themes, from class differences to racial tensions and social justice. At one point the staff listens to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on the radio and one boy talks about going down to Mississippi to march with Dr. King.
Jillian Mueller plays Baby perfectly with permed hair and obvious innocence. Josh Drake, who was playing Johnny the night I attended the show, makes a sexy and vulnerable lead with his amazing acting skills and perfectly executed dance moves (Samuel Pergande plays Johnny in other performances). The show had the audience cheering and breaking into applause throughout the play, which ended with a well-deserved standing ovation.
Parents should know
The official recommendation for this show is age 10 and up, but I would say it is more PG-13. There is mild cursing, and (of course) very steamy dancing. The main thing parents should be aware of is that one character, Penny, has an illegal abortion and ensuing complications from the procedure. Some of this will go over kids’ heads due to the vintage terminology — characters talk of Penny getting “knocked up” or “in trouble.” Baby’s older sister talks about wanting to “go all the way” and Baby and Johnny have a sexual relationship, but it is implied, not shown.
Basically, if your kids can handle the movie version, there should be no problem with them seeingthe stage show. My 11-year-old had never seen the movie and was confused by what happened with Penny and about the themes of class differences, which made for a lively discussion after the show.
If you go ...
When: Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage plays at the Paramount Theatre through Feb. 1.
Parking: Find a parking map here.
Tickets: Buy online.
Tips: Alcoholic drinks, candy, soda, water and coffee are available for sale in the lobby.
Pre-ordering for intermission is encouraged, and credit cards are accepted. Binoculars are also available for rent. Boosters are available.
There is Dirty Dancing merchandise for sale as well, and a great photo opportunity in front of a huge Dirty Dancing mural.