Friday, May 26, 2017

Day 218 Dirty Dancing at Heinz Hall –Passionate- Ooh la la!

Like most 80’s girls, I wanted to dance with and fall in love with  "a Patrick Swayze"  after watching the romance that he had with  Jennifer  Grey in the 1987 iconic movie, Dirty Dancing. Of course this movie contained a lot of dancing but it was the passion between the rich girl and the boy from the other side of the tracks, the idea of being daring, and the transformation of both characters through the power of dance and love, that turned this low budget film into hit (not to mention Swayze's dancing and physique).  I wondered if the musical stage production of Dirty Dancing at Heinz Hall could reproduce that passion.

  Dirty Dancing is not a musical but really a dance show. There is an orchestra and two singers in the show,  Elizabeth (Chante Carmel) and Billy Kostecki  (Gary Lynch), who sang a few tunes and the finale, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.  The first act was packed with  27  familiar songs, (“Magic Moment”, “ Do You Love Me?”, “ Hungry Eyes”, "Hey Baby!" )  that were paired mostly with choreography and the second act  had 20. So you get the picture-the show is non- stop dancing.

The story is simple. In the summer of 1963, “Baby” Frances Houseman (Rachel Boone) is on vacation with her parents, Dr. Houseman (Jon Edward Powell) and Marjorie (Hannah Jane McMurray) and older sister, Lisa (Alyssa Brizzi). They are enjoying the summer at a  family resort for the wealthy  in the Catskill mountains.  Baby meets Johnny Castle (Christopher Tierney) the resort’s dance instructor,  at a secret after hours party and is intrigued by the “dirty dancing” which is quite different from the ballroom dancing taught at the club.  When Johnney’s dance partner  Penny Jonson (Jennifer Mealani  Jones) becomes pregnant by a Harvard bound womanizing club waiter, Baby agrees to learn  Penny’s club routine. Baby has two left feet but after a week of practice she gets it and preforms at the club with Johnny. It is during these practice sessions that their passion and sparks ignite.
Penny (Jennifer Mealani Jones), Baby (Rachel Boone), Johnny (Christopher Tierney)

Christopher Tierney as Johnny sure had the sex appeal  and all the moves that I remembered from the movie.  In the stage production  the passion  through the dance sizzles with intensity.  Jennifer  Mealani Jones as Penny, with legs up to the ceiling, lit up the stage with sensational dancing. Rachel Boone was perfect as an awkward book smart girl who by way of  Johnny’s guidance is transformed in more ways than one.  Everyone roots for  Baby to succeed. Just  like my blog theme, the character  overcame her fears and through the process of change she gained a lot more than she expected! 

What she got was self-confidence and  the  gorgeous guy. We experience the building of their romance through the closeness of the dance that connects to the  heart.  I heard a resonating gasp from the audience at the  end of the  show’s first half  when a shirtless Christopher Tierney and Rachel Boone  had some sizzling dance moves.   All I can say is Ooh la la!

The stage production followed the movie fairly closely. The production used video  from  floor to ceiling that changed the scenes from a golf course, to the camp, to the mountains and some how with this effect, the show recreated the  iconic move scene where Johnny and Baby practice the overhead dance  lift in the water.  I had forgotten how the story also addressed race issues, prejudice between the classes, and back alley abortions.  There was a transformation of ideas and beliefs  along with the  passion in the dance.

Enjoy the show Dirty Dancing and remember your summer romance. Who knows as we approach summer, maybe there is new romance in our future or  rekindling the one with that special some!

(Dirty Dancing runs from May 23-28 at Heinz Hall as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust  PNC Broadway Pittsburgh series or you can catch it on tour at  )

Spiritual Reflection 
 (wedding day) "Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine. How fragrant your cologne, and how pleasing your name! No wonder all the young women love you! Take me with you. come, let's run! "
 (Song of Songs 1:1-4)

Other Sources
Movie watch
 Cultural Trust