Now “Dirty Dancing,” next “The Breakfast Club: The Musical?”


On the heels of expressing my attraction/repulsion to the idea of Xanadu as a Broadway musical, I read that Dirty Dancing, the West End musical version of the movie, will launch a U.S. national tour in September 2008.

Cynthia Rhodes touching Jennifer Grey is just hotter, don’t you think?

But relative heat aside, the idea of this show simultaneously makes me cringe and hope that it could be fun. After all, Dirty Dancing is a dance movie, and dance translates well to the stage. I gave up that faint hope, however, when I read a quote from Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote both the screenplay and the book of the musical:

I originally wrote the movie because I love to dance. Since the movie opened, the openhearted audience response has made me believe that everyone has a secret dancer inside them; one they feel could connect them to the physical world in the way they dream. As I learned how many people watched the movie over and over and over, I began to think that what they really wanted was to share more intensely in the event, to step through the screen, and be there while the story was happening.

Talk about taking a piece of light pop culture — albeit a very popular and oft-quoted one — a little too seriously! Xanadu winked at the audience; Dirty Dancing, it seems, will gaze earnestly into the audience’s collective eyes.

The Guardian review of the West End production affirms my fears: “Throughout, the show can never make up its mind whether it wants to be a full-blown romantic experience, a piece of social comment or outright kitsch, and it is so busy serving up helpings of double cheese that it entirely neglects to incorporate any narrative drive or tension.”

I think I’ll give this one a miss when it makes it to New York.

Regardless, I probably have to accept that the ill-advised musicals of kitschy movies are not going anywhere for a while. So instead of bemoaning the trend, perhaps I can follow New York Times reviewer Charles Isherwood’s lead and turn my dread into a party game.

Isherwood reviewed Xanadu favorably and then followed up his review with an essay in which he noted, lamented and embraced this trend. He then compiled a list of ’70s and ’80s movies that he would make into fantasy musicals, including: Eyes of Laura Mars: The Musical, A Star Is Born ’76: The Musical, Ishtar: The Karaoke Musical, Perfect and The Brat Pack Live! on Broadway.

All of these hold promise, and I long to see The Breakfast Club onstage, but there’s one choice of his that is a clear winner: Grease 2: The Musical.

The extremely ill-advised follow-up to the mega-hit Grease spawned a loyal following and boasted a soundtrack (I have the CD and I used to have the cassette!) full of hits just ready for the stage. There’s a bowling song, a sex-education song and a young Michelle Pfeiffer singing about her “Cool Rider.” And the choreography! It’s a perfect follow-up to this summer’s revival of Grease cast with the ill-advised reality show Grease: You’re the One That I Want!

My second choice would probably have to be Can’t Stop the Music, the Village People movie musical co-starring Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Jenner and Valerie Perrine.

But the decades are ripe with possibilities. What do you long to see?

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