Baby, Johnny come alive in ‘Dirty Dancing’

Does the world really need “Dirty Dancing–The Classic Story on Stage”? No.

Is it a guilty pleasure for fans of a certain little 1987 flick? A qualified yes.

Faithful to her “Dirty Dancing” screenplay, Eleanor Bergstein wrote this live touring version of the show, directed by James Powell and onstage at the Golden Gate Theatre in The City.

The best parts are when it’s just like the movie — when Baby (Rachel Boone) and Johnny (Christopher Tierney) dance and romance just like Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze did in the unlikely blockbuster and 1980s cultural touchstone. (People still mix it up with the original “Footloose.”)

For the uninitiated, Baby is an upstanding, upper class girl who finds love with “the help,” namely, Johnny, the sexy dance instructor she meets at a Catskills resort where she and her family spend a 1963 summer.

In both the movie and show, the story and characterizations are spotty. But they’re not really relevant, especially with that indelible choreography (by Michele Lynch, based on Kate Champion’s film work) splashed all over the stage.

Happily attired in the same clothes as in the movie (Baby’s got that crop top and shorts and Johnny takes his tank off for a bit), the couple is undeniably appealing.

The show’s most fun moments are when they rehearse for their big, sort-of secret number — in a field, on a log, and splashing in a lake. The live stage version recreates the magic with clever coordination between the actors and projections.

But other times, the plentiful projections, seemingly the major component of the set design, don’t work — for example, murky images of background dancers that don’t register.

While some of the group dance numbers are oddly lackluster, the front-and-center Jenny Winton as Penny, Johnny’s initial dance partner, sizzles and her San Francisco Ballet School training really shows.

The songs aren’t really emphasized, except for the big finale, when vocalists Adrienne Walker and Doug Carpenter tear things up with “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.”

At the show’s press opening, hearing the hit tune almost was more exciting than seeing the iconic lift, which, while executed without a hitch, somehow went by too fast, and didn’t quite have the same impact as the often-copied celluloid version.

While casual audiences may find the less memorable aspects of the film feeling like filler in “The Classic Story on Stage,” devotees of “Dirty Dancing” likely won’t mind that they cannot fast forward through the live show’s dull spots.

REVIEW

Dirty Dancing-The Classic Story on Stage
Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes March 20
Tickets: $45 to $212
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

Leslie Katz

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