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Friday, October 16, 2015

Dirty Dancing, the Broadway Series: Nails It

Thursday night’s performance of Dirty Dancing at Louisville’s Broadway Series follows the 1987 Patrick Swayze / Jennifer Grey movie of the same name with Christopher Tierney in the role of Johnny Castle and Gillian Abbot in the role of “Baby.” But you don’t have to be a devoted fan of that movie to appreciate this production.

The play tells the story of Frances “Baby” Houseman as she comes of age, sexually and politically, in 1963 while her family is vacationing at a Catskill Resort. The show touches politically and morally sensitive issues of abortion, segregation, voting rights and freedom riders, as well as class differences and sexual activity among young people.

The story is well told, the performances are tight, and the dancing energetic and engaging. Plus, the singing takes no back seat. In fact, Doug Carpenter (Billy Kostecki /Singer), with his rendition of “In the Still of the Night”, took the roof off the theater and practically blew the audience away.

For mature teenagers and adults this production certainly is worth your time and money. This is good musical theater at its best. The dancing was well executed and a joy to watch. The singing knocked my socks off and left me humming some of the more memorable tunes. (The playbill mentions this production was able to acquire the rights for some songs intended to be in the movie but were not able to be acquired.)  And, finally, theater-goers were left with serious issues that are still relevant today.

If you can still get tickets for this show do so. But leave the small children at home. As thrilling as the singing and dancing were, this show was not appropriate for some of the young children in the audience, as judged in part by the overheard questions from the child sitting on a lap next to us. This is not the “Lion King” but a strong PG-13. If you take your teenagers along, be prepared to discuss some of the topics raised by this serious musical. You and they most likely will benefit from the discussion.

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