Broadway has long been a nostalgia machine, taking bobby soxers, baby boomers and the bell-bottom crowd back, respectively, to the 1950s (Grease), 1960s (Hair) and 1970s (Mama Mia!) with unabashed euphoria.
The musical adaptation of Dirty Dancing, based on the 1987 feelgood movie romance starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, does the same thing for those of us who came of age at a time when Fame and Flashdance were all the rage. Never mind that Dirty Dancing is set in the summer of 1963; every teenage girl who saw the movie when it came out procured a pair of denim cutoffs and a taste for dudes in wife-beaters and quiffs.
The musical version, which follows the movie’s plot about the creative and sexual awakening of awkward teen Frances "Baby" Houseman in the arms of bad boy dancer Johnny Castle and includes many of the movie’s original lines and songs, came out of Australia more than 10 years ago. Despite patchy reviews, the show has been selling out theaters all over the world ever since, largely by tapping into our collective yearning for the past -- a yearning that apparently overrides anyone's appetite for a quality art experience.
While I couldn’t even remotely pretend to have “had the time of my life,” as the musical’s most famous song goes, Dirty Dancing has, unsurprisingly, massive appeal to groups of ladies in their 40s looking to escape their toddler-infused lives for a few hours. The Golden Gate Theater was packed with this demographic the night I attended the show. And everyone screamed in all the right places -- when hunky Christopher Tierney as Johnny Castle intones the immortal line, “nobody puts Baby in a corner,” and especially when the buff performer takes off his shirt. Oh, and the dancing is fantastic.
Watch the sizzling sizzle reel for the U.S. tour:
Dirty Dancing runs through Sunday, Mar. 20 at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. Find out more here.