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Staged ‘Dirty Dancing’ offers pleasant time machine

Christopher Tierney (Johnny, center) and the company whip up a choreographed storm in “Dirty Dancing — the Classic Story on Stage.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Christopher Tierney (Johnny, center) and the company whip up a choreographed storm in “Dirty Dancing — the Classic Story on Stage.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

[Woody’s Rating: ★★★½☆

During my teens, I toiled at a Catskill Mountains resort. So, except for having two left feet and a white boy’s rhythm, I later could relate to “Dirty Dancing.”

The 1987 movie was my kind of male chauvinist pig fantasy — bumping into a sizzling chick that had the hots for me.

Replete with my kind of pop music: “Love Is Strange,” “Duke of Earl,” “In the Still of the Night.”

And its biggest song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” which snagged an Oscar.

Now, still with two left feet and a white guy’s rhythm, I’ve had a chance to fantasize again, nostalgically — via “Dirty Dancing — the Classic Story on Stage.”

What I’d call a touring “soundtrack musical.”

Rachel Boone (Baby) and Christopher Tierney (Johnny) turn up the heat in “Dirty Dancing — the Classic Story on Stage.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Rachel Boone (Baby) and Christopher Tierney (Johnny) turn up the heat in “Dirty Dancing — the Classic Story on Stage.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

With a somewhat dated and hackneyed tale of an affluent good girl (Rachel Boone in Jennifer Grey’s role as Baby) falling for a penniless bad boy (Christopher Tierney in the Patrick Swayze part of Johnny Castle).

And its predicable, big-production-number happy ending.

In a day when twerking, Lady Gaga and sex tapes are what makes headlines, with f-bombs being dropped all over cable TV, no stretch of the imagination would label this show dirty.

But, maybe because I don’t have zits anymore, I liked the well-mic’d jukebox musical adaptation anyway.

Despite its cornball dialogue.

I toe-tapped for two hours at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre.

The year is 1963, the focus once more is upstate New York, and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman, on vacation with her older sister and parents, stumbles into an all-night staff dance party and a contrived plotline that has her learning to dance to help out an employee in need of an abortion.

She’s drawn to Johnny, the dance instructor at Kellerman’s summer resort where a typical meal might consist of “soup, then fish, then chicken, then brisket.”

Love blooms, of course.

But they never sing.

That’s left to everyone else — especially Doug Carpenter (as Billy), who has the best vocal chops.

It all plays against a class struggle backdrop juiced by references to black/white civil rights activism (including a snippet of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and fragments of the “We Shall Overcome” anthem).

In contrast, “Dirty Dancing” is not lacking in comedy.

Particularly in the hands of Jesse Carrey-Beaver as Neil (nerdy grandson of the resort’s owner), who excels in bits that remind me stylistically of Alan Cumming.

But my favorite moment is a geezer doing a bump-and-grind.

Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and Jenny Winton (Penny, right) teach Rachel Boone (Baby) some sensual moves in “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and Jenny Winton (Penny, right) teach Rachel Boone (Baby) some sensual moves in “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Also noteworthy is leggy dancing by Jenny Winton, a San Francisco native and ex-Joffrey Ballet performer, and effective projections (a thunderstorm, for example, and scenes in which the couple practice a lift move in a meadow and water).

Originally staged in 2004 in Australia, “Dirty Dancing” has been touring the globe since then (but never bothering to stop at Broadway).

The show’s book is by Eleanor Bergstein, the film’s screenwriter who based it on her own Jewish childhood (her family actually called her Baby).

The recent night I attended, the audience started applauding at the first musical notes and kept it up throughout.

Although I wasn’t quite that enthusiastic, I did like the pleasant retro time machine it provided.

“Dirty Dancing” runs at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St. (at Market), San Francisco, through March 20. Night performances, 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m. Tickets: $45 to $212 (subject to change). Information: (888) 746-1799 or shnsf.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net

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