A terrific ‘Dirty Dancing’ at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

"Dirty Dancing: the Classic Story Onstage" is now at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia until April 5. It is being presented collaboratively by the Shubert Organization and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts' "Broadway Philadelphia."

Eleanor Bergstein, screenwriter for the eponymous film, and who wrote the book for this musical, has reimagined the story for the stage. In her words, she wanted to "watch live bodies dancing here and now in the present – on the log, on the bridge, on the dance floor … I was able to add more Baby and Johnny scenes … more songs I couldn't afford last time, and, most exciting of all – more dancing."

The musical is a theatrical triumph. The stagecraft is top-notch, with imaginative lighting and scenic design that made audiences "Oohh and Aahh " out loud at the special effects. And the scenes that Ms. Bergstein mentioned are indeed among the special and memorable scenes in the play as they utilize innovative staging, lighting and sound design. Mention must be made of the wizardry created by the team. They are: Stephen Brimson Lewis, Set Designer; Tim Mitchell, Lighting Designer; Bobby Aitken, Sound Design; and Jon Driscoll, Video and Projection Design (Superb!).

In addition to the romantic and sexy lighting and stage effects, "Dirty Dancing" is a sensuous story set in bucolic surroundings in that most sensuous of seasons, summertime. We feel that rain, we feel that sunshine, as "Baby" experiences her awakening to love. Aiding and abetting our captivation is the Dirty Dancing Orchestra, which is often featured and in plain sight during pivotal moments of the story. The eight-man orchestra made the music live and breathe. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" is, of course, the best-known song, but there were many others.

Samuel Pergande and Gillian Abbott as Johnny Castle and Frances "Baby" Houseman were superb. Both actors were believable as individuals, as dancers, and together in their romantic scenes, totally believable. The audience was mesmerized by the two actors as they grew to be more than just dance partners. By the final, triumphant number, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," the audience cheered the couple as they were reunited onstage. The large cast of dancers and singers was uniformly fine, contributing much to the success of the performance.

Take your significant other, your spouse, or your date to see "Dirty Dancing: the Classic Story Onstage" and you will have "The Time of Your Life."

"Kinky Boots" is the next show, and "The Lion King" will be presented in May. Visit http://kimmelcenter.org/broadway/subs1415.php for more information.

The 2015-2016 Season has been announced. The subscription series includes "Bullets over Broadway," "Matilda," "Pippin," "The Sound of Music," "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," and "If/Then." Exclusive extra theatrical events include "Book of Mormon," "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Riverdance." For more information, visit www.kimmelcenter.org/bwy1516

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