So Dirty Dancing the musical, which opened last weekend at the Cadillac Palace, turns out to be just Dirty Dancing the movie stuck onstage? No problem. But Dirty Dancing with a she’s-emotionally-scarred-for-having-an-abortion scene appended to it? What’s up with that?
Among the very few differences between the original screen version and this cotton-candy dance-party of a show, one is glaring: a scene in which the heroine’s mom expounds on the joy of holding one’s first child, while the knocked-up-and-abandoned botched-back-room-abortion survivor, Penny Johnson (played by the extraordinary Britta Lazenga), dissolves in anguish.
The scene lands with a thud and feels like a cautionary, patched-on bow to audiences thought to be more conservative than they were 20 years ago. Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote the 1987 movie also wrote the stage script, but it’s hard not to see this scene as untrue to the film, which projects a pretty straightforward message about the importance of keeping abortion legal.