Dirty Dancing —The Summer of 1963 comes alive
Posted on 11/04/2016
It’s the summer of 1963 in the Catskill Mountains and Frances “Baby” Houseman is about to have the time of her life and it’s not Simon Says, Bingo, or Shuffleboard that gets Baby going, it’s Johnny, the suave dance instructor at Kellerman’s Resort.
Opening with the Drifter’s “This Magic Moment,” Broadway’s Dirty Dancing had the State Theatre New Jersey’s audience cheering and wooing as Johnny and Baby meet, dance, and fall in love. From the outset, we learn Baby wants to solve the world’s problems; she’s on the brink of attending college to study economics of underdeveloped countries, but before that, she grows up and becomes an adult at Kellerman’s.
Upon first seeing Johnny, she’s mesmerized. They are polar opposites—she’s the daughter of a doctor and he’s from a blue collar background. Baby runs into Johnny’s cousin Billy one night and inquires about the noise emanating from one of the buildings, he replies, “no guests allowed; house rules,” but has a change of heart and lets her enter the staff’s party. Baby’s in awe and Johnny is there! Suddenly, a whole new world opens for her.
Johnny and his dance partner Penny have a sibling-like bond and when she gets pregnant by waiter Robbie Gould, an obnoxious Yale college student, the story takes off and Johnny begins noticing Baby as she proclaims she wants to help Penny. She gets $250 from her father and gives it to Penny, so she can make her pregnancy go away. Johnny needs a dancer since Penny is laid up and Baby steps up and volunteers sans experience. The duo embarks on lessons in the lake, a field, anywhere they can as she tries to perfect 'the jump.’ The visuals for these scenes were realistic and beautiful with sunsets, mountains, and a lake. At one point he tells her to not try too hard as the iconic song “Hungry Eyes” is performed.
Some obstacles threaten their relationship and almost end it. She inspires him to be a better person and he tells her she isn’t afraid of anything, but she claims she is afraid of not feeling the rest of her whole life the way she feels when she is with him. She then tells him to dance with her as “Cry to Me” is sung. The audience swooned when actor Christopher Tierney flaunted his chest and fit body as he embraced Baby, played by Bronwyn Reed.
The music, scenery, and dance moves make this show a spectacular one. “Wipe Out,” “In the Still of the Night,” and “This Land is your Land” are among the gems which enliven it. For the last scene Johnny takes the stage and says “nobody puts Baby in the corner,” She joins him on stage as they dance to “(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life.” The entire cast joins them.
A few weeks in the summer of 1963 during a time when the United States was in flux, dirty dancing was alive and well at Kellerman’s where Baby grew up and learned the power of love and dance.
by Elizabeth Millar