Shoes, I would soon find, would not be filled at all. I attended the evening performance on Thursday (October 23, 2014) buzzing with excitement. It only took a few scenes to see that I would be let down... By the cast, the set, and the script...
Simply put, this was a performance of professional dancers, not of actors.
To sum it up in one word: AWKWARD. My friend who attended with me described it best: "it was like seeing a high school play."
Most of the characters, especially Johnny, had completely monotone voices with no emotion or conviction. Billy had such a deep and unusual voice he could have been playing Elvis as he spoke (Thank You, Thank You Very Much). Johnny and Baby had no chemistry, and it was actually a bit uncomfortable to see them attempt to force it. The only character who really did impress me was Baby's sister, Lisa, who not only could act with feeling, but also sang her part in the final show exactly on point. And there's also a new character - some girl wearing a painfully short skirt who sang between the scenes. While she had an amazing voice, I still don't understand why she was dressed as a cheap waitress.
Behind the actors was a digital screen that sometimes added some interesting context to the scenes. The lakeview was a beautiful background as Baby speaks to her Daddy on the dock about how he "let her down too." Beyond that, the screen was cheesy and overused. The dance practicing scenes on the log, in the field and in the water were all done from behind the screen, with Baby and Johnny appearing through the imagery. Plenty of the heads in the audience looked around at this point, confused about what exactly they were hoping to do with that strange directing decision. At one point, this giant screen shifted to blue pool water, and men walked across the stage carrying flailing, swimsuit-clan women pretending to swim. This was either (or a combination of) an attempt at comic relief or overall compensation for the fact that the entire show's set consisted of only two props: a twin size bed and a wooden staircase. The screen was just a lazy attempt to make up for the cheap set.
Finally, the script itself was arguably the most uncomfortable. The entire first half of the play was scripted exactly to the movie, which made everything feel rushed trying to squeeze all of the lines in. The scenes were fast, and there were no dramatic pauses or emotional responses. It was just one line breathlessly running into the next. In the second half, the directors just went rogue creating new story lines, with scenes dedicated to civil rights and the political news of the time (including a speech excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King) and a side story of apparent marital issues between Baby's parents, not to mention Baby's own problems communicating with her mother. Johnny and Baby even had an argument over civil rights. Mr. Schumacher (who has a few loose screws and is evidently single now, as there was no Mrs. Schumacher) came on stage for a random solo and thrust his groin at the audience for no apparent reason. None of these diversions impressed me. If anything, they were awkward and added more confusion to the plot.
In the end, this performance made me want to come home and actually watch the movie, so that I could satisfy the Dirty Dancing cravings that the play just didn't live up to. Even though the dancing & singing was beautiful, there were plenty of other things preventing me from being truly swept off my feet over this show. I would not see it again, nor would I recommend it to a friend.
My Rating: 2/5 stars [**---]