A throng of excited fans gathered to watch Dirty Dancing at the Pantages Theatre on February 2. My mother (a lifelong fan) and I were among them. It’s been quite a few years since I last saw Dirty Dancing on film so I was surprised at how fresh, modern and likable the Pantages’ stage adaptation was. Even with the enhancements, the feeling stayed true to the original movie.
Nearly 30 years later, we still gasp at the scene when Baby sees “dirty dancing” for the first time, even when we’re expecting it. The sensuousness of the movements to this day comes off as a little taboo. We still feel the thrill of Johnny swaying with Baby or trailing his hand down the sensitive areas of her arm. The dancing and the costumes are the best part of Dirty Dancing at the Pantages Theatre and make it worth experiencing even though it is lacking in some areas.
Baby’s father, played by Mark Elliot Wilson, gave a lackluster performance as a concerned parent. His lines were delivered monotonously and without passion, a little too rehearsed. Gillian Abbott, who plays Baby, did not have a strong stage presence until her solo dance scene. Most of the time she was overshadowed by the graceful dancers and the powerful voices of Adrienne Walker (Elizabeth) and Alex Scolari (Billy). After all, it wouldn’t be Dirty Dancing without its show-stopping finale.
The action of the performance followed closely to the plot of the movie, almost to a fault, causing fits of laughter at the silliness of some scenes. Set changes were implemented by a display of different video projections on the white walls. These transformed the set from the country club to a dance studio to the offending green pasture of the “life practice” scene. The silliness ensued most noticeably in the “lift practice” scene during which Johnny and Baby seem to be directly standing in a field of green or inside the ocean. Let me clarify—they were not stand atop a pasture, they were literally inside the grassy part, as if they were laying in it sideways. This appeared to be a bad Photoshop job where the culprit had no understanding of angles and perspective. Sure, it was funny, but did it need to be?
For die-hard fans, Dirty Dancing at the Pantages Theatre is an engrossing musical that hits their favorite moments in the film. The retro dresses are jealousy inducing, at least for us Modcloth lovers. The dance numbers are expertly executed. And you have the climax, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” inspiring fits of applause from the audience.
Dirty Dancing at the Pantages Theatre is a nostalgic, feel-good production that takes us all back to the summer of 1963 when Baby, 17 years old and all idealistic innocence, met and fell in love with bad boy Johnny. It’s a story that we all know and love, brought to the Pantages Theatre stage as accurately as you remember.