Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

“Dirty Dancing” Sizzles at Memorial Auditorium

Gillian Abbott and Christopher Tierney star as Frances "Baby" Houseman and her dance instructor Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing" (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Gillian Abbott and Christopher Tierney star as Catskills resort guest Frances “Baby” Houseman and her dance instructor Johnny Castle in “Dirty Dancing” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The 2014-16 National Tour of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage — which made its Raleigh debut last night, courtesy Broadway Series South — really sizzles. Contributing to the conflagration are incendiary performances by Gillian Abbott as awkward, altruistic 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman; Christopher Tierney as dynamic, dreamboat Catskills resort dance instructor Johnny Castle; and Jenny Winton as Johnny’s pregnant fellow dance instructor and dance partner Penny Johnson, a former Rockette whom womanizing Kellerman’s Mountain House waiter Robbie Gould (played as a Uriah Heep-like cad by Scott McCreary) gave the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am treatment.

Tierney is terrific as a sensitive blue-collar boy entertaining wealthy upper-crust clients at a swanky resort. He has all the right moves on the dance floor and off, plus a muscular physique that makes him catnip to women on the prowl.

With her feline grace, Winton dances her way into the audience’s heart, while rebuffing all of the local lotharios, except Robbie; and Abbott gives a warm and winning performance as Baby, the socially conscious antithesis of the Jewish-American Princess stereotype. Her fairy-tale transformation from the proverbial Ugly Duckling to a beautiful swan is a tale worthy of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75).

Christopher Tierney and Jenny Winton star as Catskill resort dance instructors Johnny Castle and Penny Johnson in "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage" (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Christopher Tierney and Jenny Winton star as Catskill resort dance instructors Johnny Castle and Penny Johnson in “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Also entertaining are passionate performances by Mark Elliot Wilson as Baby’s physician father, Dr. Jacob “Jake” Houseman, and Margot White as her mother, Marjorie Houseman. Comic characterizations by Alex Scolari as Baby’s older sister, Lisa; Gary Lynch as Dr. Houseman’s crusty but kind patient, resort owner Max Kellerman; and Herman Petras as resort guest Mr. Schumacher tickle the audience’s funny bone.

Also deserving mention are Rachel Marie Bell’s slinky portray of bored housewife Vivian Pressman and the spectacular singing of Doug Carpenter and especially Jennlee Shallow, who stop the show with their rousing rendition of “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.”

An expanded and enhanced script by original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein and splendid musical staging by director James Powell, tour choreographer Michelle Lynch, original choreographer Kate Champion, and music supervisor Conrad Helfrich combine with animated accompaniment by music director Alan J. Plado (keyboard) and his eight-piece onstage band to make the initial visit of the National Tour of Dirty Dancing to North Carolina’s capital city truly a night to remember.

This touring production has plenty of razzle dazzle and much theatrical magic, heightened by cinematic scene changes facilitated by Stephen Brimson Lewis’ versatile set and choice mood- and location-changing video projections ingeniously created by Jon Driscoll to add additional pizzazz to these crowd-pleasing proceedings.

On Sept. 8th, the opening-night audience jumped to their feet at the final curtain and saluted the standout cast and crew with a fervent and lengthy standing ovation. Get your tickets today!

Jennlee Shallow and Doug Carpenter sing up a storm in "Dirty Dancing" (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Jennlee Shallow and Doug Carpenter sing up a storm in “Dirty Dancing” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 9th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter:; Sept. 9th Raleigh, NC WNCN interview with Gillian Abbott and Christopher Tierney, conducted by Valonda Calloway and Alex Butler for “My Carolina Today”:; Sept. 5th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks:; and Sept. 2nd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 7th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Broadway Series South presents DIRTY DANCING: THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8-11 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 and 13 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $25.14-$105.14, including fees.


BSS Box Office: 919-996-8700 (information only). Tickets are primarily sold through Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) and at the Duke Energy Center Box Office, on the Wilmington St. side of the center.

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-996-8707,, or

SHOW: and


THE TOUR:,, and







NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10th, performance.


Dirty Dancing (1987 film): (Turner Classic Movies), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook page), and (Wikipedia).

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (2004 Sydney and 2006 West End musical): (official tour website) and (Wikipedia).

Eleanor Bergstein (screenwriter and playwright): (tour bio), (Internet Movie Database), (Wikipedia).

James Powell (director): (tour bio) and (Internet Broadway Database).

Michele Lynch (choreographer): (official website), (tour bio), and (Internet Broadway Database).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews