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'Dirty Dancing' hits the Shea's stage

Among ’80s hits seemingly ripe for stage adaptations, few would seem to fit the bill better than “Dirty Dancing,” the endlessly quotable and quintessentially American take on teenage longing in the age of Reagan.

Think of the possibilities: the period choreography; the simmering sexual tension; the jean shorts. And think of the tantalizing theatrical challenges, such as how to stage the famous water scene, in which Patrick Swayze holds a dripping Jennifer Grey perilously aloft in a practice lift like some sort of cotton-swathed mermaid.

All those possibilities were too much for producers to ignore in 2004, when the show launched in Australia before becoming a smash hit on London’s West End. Three years later, it launched its first North American tour in Toronto, where it did big business. Now, the show is finally making its way to Shea’s Performing Arts Center (646 Main St.) where it will run from May 3 to 8.

A key question for theatergoers will be whether the show has grown much since its Toronto production, which struck me as conflicted over whether to employ the language of cinema or the language of theater. The show stars Christopher Tierney and Rachel Boone in the roles of dance instructor Johnny Castle and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman, she who should never be put in a corner. Tickets are $32 to $72, with info at 847-1410 or sheas.org.

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