Time of whose life?
Photo Courtesy of: MarrinerGroup
MEMO: Baz Luhrmann. When you were looking for a finale for the Melbourne season of Strictly Ballroom – while desperately rejigging the show via Skype – you should have gone to Star City in Sydney and seen the ending for Dirty Dancing.
Now, that’s a finale. Admittedly, everybody knows (I had) The Time of My Life and most female hearts get a flutter with any remembrance of the late Patrick Swaize and his bad boy swagger.
It gets the crowd on their feet – even if the previous two hours don’t, despite being crammed with instantly recognised songs.
With truth in advertising, they don’t call this show Dirty Dancing – The Musical. How could they? Even though it’s crammed with hits. You can’t call something a musical if the lead characters never sing.
Instead, they bill it as ‘the classic story on stage’ and it faithfully follows the Swaize film to the letter. To its detriment, according to most critics.
As one caustically put it: ‘Baby mightn't belong in the corner but the producers certainly do’.
I actually enjoyed it. Possibly because before going to the Princess Theatre we dusted off the soundtrack and gave it a run. I’d forgotten how many hits there were.
Jewish taxi drivers
I should have been an easy mark for this one anyway. I well remember those New Jersey resorts in the Catskills where the story is set.
We used to call it ‘the Jewish taxi drivers’ Miami Beach’. They capture that middle class forced family fun very well.
And the, ‘ugly duckling turns into a swan’ and wrongly accused bad boy makes good, narrative hardly taxes the brain.
My main complaint about the show is that Baby (Kirby Burgess) plays the early awkward klutz too hard.
There is no way known that somebody as uncoordinated as that, and so bereft of any sense of rhythm, could ever become half the dancer her character is required to become.
It would be like a teenage boy, so uncoordinated that he couldn’t even jog let alone grasp a relay baton on sports day, turning overnight into Gene Krupa, the world’s greatest drummer.
I can suspend disbelief like the best of them but not this time.
dancing is wonderful
And while I’m carping: I know even ‘serious musicals’ need a comedy moment to break the mood. Light and shade. You’ve got Master of the House in Les Mis and Get Me to the Church On Time in My Fair Lady but the excruciating, seemingly endless, screeching hula number in this, is truly awful. Even though it is meant to be in an amteur talent quest.
Unlike some critics, I thought the chemistry between Baby and Johnny Castle (played by Kurt Phelan) was believable, unlike the relationship between the lovers in Ballroom. Plus their dancing is wonderful.
And that final dance with THE LIFT is worth the time and money.
Professional theatre critics look down their noses at Dirty Dancing but I can understand why – after launching in Sydney a decade ago -- it has run forever on the West End.