To its last low grind and spinning lift, the Encore Series presentation of "Dirty Dancing" exceeded expectations. The stage version of the 1987 movie, which starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Beale, "Dirty Dancing," swept the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center's stage Thursday with classic 1960's tunes and smoldering dance moves.
I understand that since its release 30 years ago, the movie "Dirty Dancing" has become a cult classic. At the time of the movie's release, as a young mother, I was much more into "dirty diapers" than "Dirty Dancing," so I'm not certain I had the chance to watch the entire show start to finish. Regardless, of that fact, I truly enjoyed the spectacular stage version.
Not necessarily a "musical" in the true sense of the word, vocals for "Dirty Dancing" were sung primarily by two very talented cast members, along with a combination of 1960's pre-recorded hits. Main characters Francis "Baby" Houseman (Kaleigh Courts) and Johnny Castle (Aaron Patrick Craven), interacted through dance, not through bursting out in love songs as would be the case in most typical musicals. “Dirty Dancing” is famous for its blockbusters “Hungry Eyes,” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” In addition, a soulful performance of "In the Still of the Night" by Nickolaus Colon shone as the vocal highpoint of the evening.
The plotline of “Dirty Dancing” is one of forbidden love, predictable in many ways, but with some dramatic twists and lots of smart one-liners. The gifted cast members worked well together in a high-energy performance, with exceptional ballroom and Latin choreography truly the polished centerpiece of the show.
Set at a resort in the Catskill Mountains during the summer of 1963, "Dirty Dancing" tells the story of Francis "Baby" Houseman, a wealthy teenager who falls for her male dance teacher, Johnny Castle. Courts was believable as Houseman, a seemingly awkward dancer who practices her way to expertness under the highly skilled direction of the buff in black pants Johnny Castle (Craven). I can't say why for sure, but it seems most Encore shows have an extremely hot male lead. It might have something to do with attracting middle-aged women to the shows, but I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist. I'll just smile vacantly and continue to pretend I don't notice.
Coming up Nov. 29, Encore’s off-season event, “The Doo Wop Project,” will feature current and former stars of the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: The Musical.” Individual tickets go on sale Nov. 13.
Dawne Leiker is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.