Monday, August 4, 2008

Is This Really Necessary: Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage

When I was eight or nine, the movie Dirty Dancing came out and I was immediately obsessed. In addition to having dancing and romance, the film had the added attraction of being banned by my parents, who thought it was much too adult for me. Since I couldn't watch the movie at home, I bought and listened to the soundtrack and managed to see the movie at a friend's house when I spent the night. Even now I will occasionally watch the movie or even the True Hollywood Story if I am bored or if there isn't anything else that strikes my fancy on television.

That said, even I have to recognize that the movie is definitely not the pinnacle of cinema. It is a great movie to watch if you are feeling nostalgic or if you are with a group of snarky friends and you want to make fun of something. The music is good (particularly if you discount Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind," which never made a lot of sense to me) and the dancing is a lot of fun. Plus, it has two of the great stars of musical theatre (Jerry Orbach and Kelly Bishop) playing small secondary roles as Baby's parents. However, in my mind, Dirty Dancing is best confined to watching at home with friends and copious amounts of alcohol.

Not everyone shares my view on the movie. Someone (namely, the film's writer Eleanor Bergstein) decided that the only thing better than watching the movie at home was to watch it live in a theatre. Dirty Dancing - The Classic Show on Stage (as it is called) has spread like kudzu from the Netherlands to Germany to England to the US. What is most perplexing (from my perspective) is that it seems to be basically the movie done on stage. The actors don't sing; when it is time for a song, people come on stage and sing while the actors dance. In fact, judging from the clips on YouTube and the the show's site, I can't tell any discernible differences between the movie and the live show (beyond the random live singers and some different songs).

Surprisingly, the stage show has been very successful, particularly in Germany and England. While I can see people enjoying the show's kitschy sensibility, I am a little upset that the British have embraced the show, given their rich theatrical heritage. Despite the thrill of seeing a live person on stage saying "I carried a watermelon," I can't imagine paying over $50 for the privilege of watching what is essentially the movie with starring less famous people.