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DIRTY DANCING presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Oct. 5. Click here for more information on the production.
Before I start my review, I wanted to bring attention to the title of the show. It is NOT DIRTY DANCING The Musical. The show is called, DIRTY DANCING – The Classic Story on Stage. Unlike last season’s GHOST The Musical which was the movie, re-imagined as a musical, DIRTY DANCING is a scene-by-scene re-creation of the movie. If you are not a fan of the 1987 movie, it’s doubtful this production will change your mind.
But if you have a nostalgic soft-spot for the movie, like me, you should have a fun and entertaining time.
When I say a scene-by-scene re-staging, I’m not kidding. It’s all there: the watermelons, the dance montage, dancing on the log, practicing lifts in the pond…and of course, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
The production does an excellent job of recreating the costumes from the movie. From Baby’s multiple changes down to her sister’s Lisa’s Hawaiian ensemble for the talent show. The show’s pacing does suffer a bit due to the costume changes. Several times, Baby leaves stage at the end of one scene to almost immediately come back on in the following scene in a completely different costume. The transitions to help cover these quick changes vary in degrees of success.
Throughout the show, part of the back wall of the set is digital and is used very often to establish scene locations. Projections and sound effects are also used. Most of these settings work well, but there are a few that elicit laughs from the audience. Although more in a “laughing with you” not “laughing at you” kind of way.
The ensemble does an excellent job of bringing the classic characters and dances to life. Jillian Mueller is Baby. Broadway in Cincinnati fans may recognize her name as the lead in last season’s FLASHDANCE. Mueller and Samuel Pergande as Johnny have an easy chemistry that perfectly fits the roles.
One of the unique things about the movie was the relationship between Baby and her father. Mark Elliot Wilson (who plays Dr. Jake Houseman) perfectly recreates that dynamic.
Four vocalists perform several of the key numbers. Jennlee Shallow has a beautiful and powerful voice. Her “We Shall Overcome” was chill-inducing. Doug Carpenter, who plays Johnny’s cousin, Billy, sings a beautiful “In the Still of the Night.” Together, they close out the show with “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” Opening night, I did find the volume on the Orchestra a bit too loud in places.
Johnny’s return at the end of the show was met with applause as he entered from the back of the house and continued through his iconic line. The bulk of the opening night audience seemed to really enjoy this waltz, tango and cha cha down memory lane.
My rating (with a nostalgia bonus): 4 out of 5 stars.
Click here for a complete list of show times for DIRTY DANCING.
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