My earliest memories of “Dirty Dancing” involve a dusty VHS tape propped in my parents’ living room. Our old wall unit with the TV at its core had movies tucked into every nook and cranny. The bright-colored script on the spine of the box always got my attention, but I was told it was a “grown-up” movie.
I wanted desperately to watch it, of course.
I can’t remember my very first viewing (sometime in the ’90s, inevitably), but I remember later ones — and when my grandmother asked if we’d be interested in seeing a stage version at the National Theatre for a girls’ afternoon, we didn’t hesitate.
It was awesome.
Steamy. Very steamy.
In high school, I was the consummate theatre geek — and even headed up our school’s thespian society in my final year. I hung with drama geeks and was a drama geek . . . probably stereotypically so. But I loved the heck out of it. Most of my friends were my partners in crime on stage, and I can’t separate my memories of my teen years without remembering the highs and lows of all those moments in and out of the spotlight. (Fun fact: I was even the lead in Jane Austen’s “Emma” senior year. And I didn’t really know who Jane Austen was at the time, so: progress.)
Going to see shows as an adult is an entirely different experience, of course — mostly because, you know, these are professionals. This performance of “Dirty Dancing” was as expert as you’d expect from a show with an activity in the title. I was mesmerized by the angle of their bodies, how effortlessly they moved across the stage. Given I’m incredibly uncoordinated and feel embarrassed at the mere idea of dancing in public (save my own wedding), I was very impressed.
My sister and cousin said most of the dialogue was straight out of the movie, and I recognized many pivotal scenes. Several of the women to my right were getting quite excited during the performance, whistling and shouting like teenyboppers as the lights came up on a shirtless Johnny with Baby appearing at his door. When Johnny delivers the movie’s most famous line, the audience erupted.
We knew where it was going — and that spoiled nothing. If anything, it made it better.
Though theatre hasn’t been a huge part of my life in the decade since high school, I feel so energized at live performances — and want to remember that moving forward. Time and money can be tight, but there is something electric about great musicals . . . and I was still tapping my foot all day Sunday. Our day was rounded out with lots of time chatting with wonderful family at dinner afterward, all of us buzzing, and our girls’ afternoon at “Dirty Dancing” was very well spent.
Especially as the whole audience sang and clapped along with “Time of My Life.” It’s pretty much mandatory.
And oh, that Johnny.