Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage

Blockbuster musicals based on blockbuster films are multiplying like viruses, but Dirty Dancing is different. Its approach to slapping film on a stage is the zenith of the seamless and shameless. Instead of adding songs, original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's theater translation mimics scenes with a faithfulness to her treasured 1987 source material that's slavishly high camp. Add in James Powell's extravagant direction and we're served up fantastically expensive cheese that knows audiences don't just want to see Baby (Amanda Leigh Cobb) and Johnny (Josef Brown) dancing on a log, they want to see that log descend majestically from the ceiling and be dismissed when it's served its momentary purpose. By duplicating the pacing, plot and props, Dirty Dancing revels in the luxurious disposability that tells a crowd they're getting their money's worth. Wow factor is key when you're shelling out the cost of several DVDs to watch the exact same thing live — the set whirls and motors, spitting up bridges and doors and revolving platforms, dancers in great costumes pack the stage, and giant video screens even show us the fractured glass when Johnny punches a window. It's the kind of nonsense that delights both cynics and fans. (Inversely, it's now the script's dabbling into race and class consciousness that feels cheap.) Cobb and Brown are twins for Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, the charming Cobb approaching the role with actual acting, while the muscular Brown has fun aping Swayze's show-pony dramatics. In a strong and massive cast, standouts include Britta Lazenga as the ill-fated dancer Penny and the very funny Katlyn Carlson as Baby's snotty sister Lisa. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through June 28. (213) 365-3500. A Broadway L.A. production.
Sun., May 10, 6 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: May 10. Continues through June 28, 2009