Daddys and lovers

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  February 19, 2009

But this is a Beauty and the Beast replication rather than a Lion King reinvention. The dialogue is lifted almost verbatim from the movie, as are many of the period songs and dance moves. And every effort has been made — via rising, sinking, revolving sets, augmented by travel-poster-worthy landscape and swirling dance projections — to make Dirty Dancing on stage look just like a movie. Some of this is clever, as when Baby and Johnny's dance practice is moved from log to lake by way of projections. But often the cranked-up scenery and projections just get in the way of the dancing, which can be thrilling, especially when executed by Sydney Dance Company vet Brown (whose American accent is redolent of too many shrimps thrown on the barbie) and the impossibly long-legged Britta Lazenga as his "knocked-up" terpsichorean soulmate, Penny.

Moreover, the show is something of an oddity as a musical. Although there's an orchestra, much of the music is canned. There's plenty of ballroom ballet and smoky undulation on view (though without the pelvic close-ups, the dancing is less dirty than in the film), but none of the main characters sings. This turns genuine crooner Ben Mingay, in the secondary role of cousin Billy, into something of a star for his strong-piped sideline renditions of "In the Still of the Night" and, of course, the Oscar-winning "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Baby and Johnny aside, the characters are more clichûd than in the film. The elder Housemans are period stick figures, and sister Lisa is a gangly, off-key, hula-ing goon. And what in blazes is ace Shakespearean actor Jonathan Epstein doing up there admonishing the waiters to be nice to the daughters ("even the dogs") and bemoaning the demise of the Catskills' heyday as resort owner Max Kellerman?

I know, I know, he's making money — as is, regardless of whether it gets to Broadway, the pink-logo'd, extravagantly imitative Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage. So look on the bright side, diehard fans: at least the time of your life that you're having is longer.

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Related: Winter's tales, Play by play: February 20, 2009, Derailed, More more >
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