Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dirty Like Poo - Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage - Musical Review

Dirty Dancing - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - 1/2 (Yes, that's 1/2 a star out of 5)
Written by Eleanor Bergstein, Directed by James Powell

A Chorus Line - National Tour - Canon Theatre - Toronto, ON - *** (out of 5)
Originally Conceived, Directed and Co-Choreographed by Michael Bennett, Music by Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics by Edward Kleban, Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, Directed and Originally Co-Choreographed by Bob Avian

So I saw two "dancing" shows back to back a few months ago but it took me this long to cleanse myself from Dirty Dancing to be able to write about them.

Meanwhile, the A Chorus Line tour has come and gone through Toronto, and even the cast changed a week after I saw it, but here's my two cents. Great musical presented with an okay cast whose intimacy is completely lost in the ginormous Canon Theatre. Still loved the show but they really had an incredible original Broadway Revival cast (many who have gone on to even bigger things) didn't they?

Okay, now back to the real dirt. And yes, it is really really dirty. Sh!tty in fact.

I'm writing this (and not ignoring it and blocking it from my head like I was intending to) to save you all from having to sit through Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage. Especially since it's is STILL running in London, STILL running in Toronto, currently running in Chicago, and opening soon in Boston, LA, and apparently even Broadway (RUN and SAVE YOURSELVES).

But don't think I hated the show because I'm a theatre snoot. I LOVE the movie Dirty Dancing. I've seen it over 40 times (yes. 40 times. I had nothing to do during my youth, okay?). So I'm not opposed to the idea (and I actually enjoyed Legally Blonde so I know they CAN turn a chickflick into a silly but enjoyable musical).

But first off, Dirty Dancing is not even really a musical. More like a play with music and some tepid dancing. And not even really a play. More like the movie thrown up (and I DO mean that in the barf way) on stage. The irony is, the stage show felt flatter than the movie, even though there were real live people (apparently, they could have been robots though) in 3D in front of our eyes (and I was sitting up close in the 7th row).

The problem with the show is it is SOOOO LAZILY done. It could have been a riot. It could have been a cheesetastically fun night (think Mamma Mia) but it was dreadfully boring and strangely weird. There were some extremely awkward transitions between scenes and the pacing was tediously slow. Considering the whole show was just a series of "best of" scenes, I'm not sure how this stage version is LONGER than the movie since you really must have seen the movie to fully understand the plot (I know, I could probably make a comment about that too but I'm not even going to bother. Too easy).

And then in the weirdest/laziest move, none of the main characters actually sing. When they DO sing on stage. Half the music is simply piped in on the soundsystem. What is sung, is usually by the two performers playing waiters in the background. Luckily, in Toronto, we have Ben Mingray and Melissa O'Neill and their voices are phenomenal. Melissa O'Neill, the Canadian Idol winner from Season 3, is simply fabulous and her voice soars. She exudes a glowing presence on stage so it's a shame she's relegated to the back or sides of the stage while she usually performs. Perhaps it is because she's not super skinny like the other dancers, but she's truly a star that is being wasted in this show. The handsome Ben Mingray has a deep and uncanny voice that can mimic Bill Medley yet still sound distinctive and different in other songs.

Still, why would you have two waiters (standing in the back) sing "I've Had The Time of My Life" while Baby and Johnny Castle are centre stage... supposedly having the time of their lives?

Then there's the dancing. It IS called Dirty DANCING. You'd think the dancing would look awesome on stage. Instead the choreography was muddled and uninspired. Again, another huge missed opportunity.

I won't even get into the wooden acting or the dialogue directly copied from the movie. Let's just say that the best part of the show was seeing the waiters sing, thanks to Ben and Melissa (who are only in the Toronto show, so we at least got lucky here, who knows how the singers are in other cities?).

I didn't completely hate the stage set, even though it relied way too much on video projections/screens and seemed really cheesy but considering the rest of the show is total crap, it didn't seem as bad by comparison. I actually thought the log scene where Baby and Johnny learn to do jumps in the lake was actually quite clever. And now that's about the only time I'll be using the word "clever" in association with this show.

If you're a fan of the movie, just go buy a copy of the DVD and watch it again and skip the live stage show. It's not even worth seeing to see how bad it truly is. Same your money and time. SAVE YOURSELVES. Or else you're going to feel really dirty for a long time.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com


Esther said...

The things you do for your readers! Thanks for saving me from this. Perhaps I will rent the movie. I don't think I've ever seen it.

I am looking forward to seeing "A Chorus Line" on tour, though. I saw it once, in Boston, a long, long, long time ago.

Keira Andrews said...

You know, I keep getting Mirvish offers for discount tickets for DD, and I was thinking, How bad could it be? I love cheesy musicals. Thank you for posting this public service announcement, as I will most certainly not waste my time or money. They don't sing?!? Ugh, it sounds truly dreadful.

Btw, I loved Hunter Parrish as Melchior in SA. I went the week before closing and even though he was sick as a dog, he went on and did a wonderful job. Had to go an octave down on the "Left Behind" high notes, but his singing was good and his acting was terrific. I was so impressed! After seeing Matt Doyle and Hunter in the role, Kyle Riabko has big shoes to fill when the tour comes here. But I do look forward to seeing him, and especially Blake Bashoff. I bought stage tickets a couple of weeks ago (I don't know why Mirvish bothers announcing release dates when they never follow them!) and since they're only $25, I'm going three times. At least, heh.

Vance said...

WHAT? Stage seats are already on Sale? OH F@#K! How did I miss this?

OH CRAP. I need to go down tomorrow and get them. ACK!

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