Great ‘Dirty Dancing’ but subpar acting



The Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center brought “Dirty Dancing” to UNI. There were two performances on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

SHELBY WELSCH, Theater Critic

Many people have probably heard of the classic film, “Dirty Dancing,” which was released in 1987 and went down in history for its risqué content and sultry dance moves. The movie was loved by many at the box office, and after winning the 1988 Oscar for best original song, it has been remade time and time again in hopes of recreating the magic of the original film.

“Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” has been touring across the U.S., delivering their own version of the film as a live stage performance. The group traveled to the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center this past Friday and delivered a stunning show filled with lively dance moves and a compelling story that held true to the original movie.

An understudy, Jay Stuart, played the bad boy dance instructor Johnny Castle, and Kayleigh Courts played the daddy’s little girl Frances “Baby” Houseman. Castle gave a wonderful performance by employing the classic bad-boy-but-also-has-a-sensitive-side demeanor. I found his character to be really sweet despite his somewhat shady past. He was also an amazing dancer, and definitely lived up to his dance instructor character’s skills. Castle graced the stage with a variety of cha chas and rumbas and had my foot tapping along in the audience.

Courts, however, did not impress me as much. The character “Baby” undergoes a huge change in the storyline and struggles between finding out who she really wants to be and disappointing her rich upper class family. So, the acting requires a transformation as well, and I found Courts’ acting to be pretty flat and unwavering. Of course there were cute scenes where she made me laugh, such as her first dance lesson that involved a whole lot of spaghetti arms and toe stomping. But all in all, I felt like her acting held back the other actors from being more successful.

The set design and quickness of set changes really, really impressed me. Scenes were very short in this musical, a few being as short as 15 seconds. However, this was no problem for their swift crew. They swept the stage like a well-oiled machine and changed sets like they had been training for it their whole lives. Because of the frequent set changes, the sets were all very simple. But, I really liked this choice because I felt like I was actually watching a movie that was simply performed live on stage. It was such a cool effect.

In addition, a lot of the songs including the popular “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” And of course, the crowd-favorite “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” was performed live. While I’m unsure if there was a live band or if the accompaniment was simply a recording, the singers were clearly live and sang beautifully.

Nickolaus Colon and Erica Philpot were the two main singers and sounded great together. I was particularly blown away by Colon because his vocal range was ridiculous. He spurted out those high falsetto notes just as easily as he did those deep, low bass notes. That guy is 100 percent going places with that voice, and I was truly delighted to be able to listen to him.

“Dirty Dancing” would only be “dirty” without the “dancing,” and I was so impressed with the dancing skills these actors had. Anais Blake, who played Johnny’s dance partner and good friend Penny Johnson was especially terrific. She flew across the stage with boisterous moves and graceful swings. I’ve always wished I was a better dancer, so I could watch her all day, coveting those killer moves.

Remakes tend to get a bad rap, and while there have been a couple of film remakes of “Dirty Dancing” that many claim to not be as good as the original, I’m not against this particular remake at all. I actually think the live performance was really different and cool, and it was well-executed by this particular group. While the singing, dancing and set designs impressed me more than the main characters’ acting, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. The dancing aspect of this musical was totally spot on. So, that makes it easier for me to overlook some of the flat acting.

At the end of the day, I had a fun time watching this show. It was lively and quick-paced, and while the show was somewhat long with the inclusion of an intermission, I had a great time. I would be curious to see how different the musical would look like towards the end of their tour after the actors have time to practice a little more. But, I left the theater in a good mood and an itching to take dance lessons.