Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage at the Merriam Theatre

-Brenda Hillegas

christopher_tierney_(johnny),_jennifer_mealani_jones_(penny)_and_the_company_in_the_north_american_tour_of_dirty_dancing_–_the_classic_story_on_stage._(photo_by_matthew_murphy)_1
Photos by Matthew Murphy

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage is at the Merriam Theatre until May 21st. If you have some free time and need something to push you into summer, you should check out this show while it’s in our city. The movie is coming up on it’s 30th anniversary, so why not celebrate a few months early?

This isn’t a musical in the way that Legally Blonde or The Wedding Singer are, because it’s not easy to take a well-loved (and continuously quoted) movie like Dirty Dancing and adapt it for the stage. The challenge would be to turn Dirty Dancing into a musical with original songs based on the plot. Personally, I feel that any attempt would just turn it into a mockery. Instead, this is just a stage version of the movie. The stage show’s creator, Eleanor Bergstein, wrote and co-producing the original film, so you’re in good hands here.

Bergstein was even able to obtain songs for this production that she failed to obtain for the original movie in 1987. These songs include “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters and “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” by Marvin Gaye. You’ll be able to hear the music in the scenes she originally wanted them to be a part of in the movie version.

There are some live vocal numbers (from very outstanding vocalists), but the actual dancing is what makes this stage version worth your time. Think Dancing with the Stars, but better because you’re a part of it. You’ve seen the movie and you know what’s coming, but you don’t know how it will be done. That’s what makes Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage a must-see for any fan. You’ll be on the edge of your seat at times, as you anticipate the moment Baby discovers the titular dancing, or as she and Johnny move along to “Love is Strange”.

A week from today, you’ll be flooded with another Dirty Dancing tribute as ABC premieres their latest effort in a trend of TV-version remakes. I can only assume it will not live up to the original. Why would you expect it to anyway? I encourage you to skip the network TV release next week. Yes, it’s in the comfort of your own home and yes, you’re technically already paying for it. It won’t be nearly as exciting as what you’ll see on stage though. Spend the money, grab a couple of friends, and take a trip to the theatre.

The original movie is very dear to a lot of people and it has been adapted with caution because of that notion. Would Eleanor Bergstein have it any other way, actually? Christopher Tierney and Rachel Boone were spot on as Johnny and Baby, respectively- no easy task! The cast clearly loves the movie as much as the rest of us and it’s very evident in the final number (yes, it’s “Time of Your Life”).

The nostalgia will be worth every single penny.

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