Celebrities, goofy fun, and some dancing
WORCESTER -- Harry Hamlin , star of "L.A. Law," "L.A. Law: The Movie," and the stirring 1998 vehicle "Like Father, Like Santa," spent half of Monday night with his knees locked woodenly in place, his tanned neck angled into the stage lights. He stumbled through a waltz and knocked off a stiff-backed quickstep wearing a sharp look of surprise, as if his partner, Karina Smirnoff , were pinching his backside especially hard. He'd been waiting for years, he later explained to the crowd, to learn the intricacies of the art of ballroom dancing.
He's still waiting, but that's the point. As its title implied, the television version of "Dancing With the Stars" was mostly about inclusion. Audiences were invited to see celebrities as fallible, with a stepped-on toe here and a poorly executed twirl there; Emmitt Smith, last year's winner, started the season by re-enacting the agony of your first slow dance.
Live -- the road show is in its fifth month -- everything and nothing has changed. Smith isn't on the bill, but Needham native Joey McIntyre and Season 2 winner Drew Lachey are, and so is a cadre of professional dancers. The panel of judges is gone, replaced by a ring of floor-level tables and a middling live band. And instead of TV announcer Alan Dedicoat , the cast now introduces itself, passing the mike between costume changes, guffawing, winking, and firing off one-liners.
To wit, here's Joey Lawrence, after learning Leominster was roughly 30 minutes outside Worcester: "Geography, man. It's awesome."
Or McIntyre, describing "DWTS" in the local patois: "This show has been full of wicked pissah moments."
Mostly, though, staged within the sprawling width of the DCU Center, the show took on an air of unexpected intimacy. Hamlin flopped, but he was funny about it; Lawrence ran the length of the auditorium, slapping high fives; McIntyre delivered a charmingly off-key rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" to his mother, who looked pleased.
The remainders? Choreographer Louis van Amstel , coaxing soap actress Lisa Rinna into an off-kilter something-or-other, and Lachey and partner Cheryl Burke going honky-tonk to the tune of "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy."
Later the professionals, unaided by their celeb pals, made their final appearance onstage, amid a wash of color, open-chested shirts, and tasseled skirts. The crowd was cowed into near silence.
We appreciated the spectacle, sure, but we were there for amateur hour.