Theatre dirty dancing stage show on tap electricity in indian villages


On video, the popular movie set VHS sales records. Its soundtrack, propelled by the hits (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life and She’s Like the Wind, notched wins at the Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Award ceremonies and sold 32 million copies, making it the 17th-highest-selling album in history. The brand continues to do big business 30 years after its release, including a touring stage version that has been selling-out performances across the world since 2004.

Canada is next on the itinerary for Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, with the first stop set for Victoria’s Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Tuesday. The production has been on the road since October, averaging a remarkable eight shows a week — a heavy workload for its lead actor, Aaron Patrick Craven, who plays dance instructor Johnny Castle.

When the run comes to its end on July 1, the cast will have been on the road for the better part of nine months. “This schedule has been crazy,” Craven said Thursday from a tour stop in Spokane, Washington. “Sometimes I can’t even remember what my hotel room is.”

The role of Johnny Castle was popularized in the film by Patrick Swayze, who became a star with its release. Those are big shoes to fill for Craven, whose castmate in the stage production, Kaleigh Courts, faces a similar amount of pressure in the Frances Houseman character — aka Baby — made famous by Jennifer Grey.

“For me, this is definitely the most physically challenging role I’ve ever done. The dancing is very, very demanding right out of the gate. The first 20 minutes of it is pretty much straight dancing for me. I do make time to go to the gym — for my role, in particular, it’s necessary — but the show definitely takes care of my cardio needs, that’s for sure.”

Craven studied performance and choreography at Wichita State University, and has appeared as a principal dancer with ballet and contemporary dance companies in Kansas. Experience he gained through stage productions of Billy Elliot, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mamma Mia! and West Side Story prepared him for one side of his Dirty Dancing role, but producers kept the cast on its toes. “Everything you know and love about the film, all the characters, all the lines, all the lifts, those are all represented in our production. But we’ve added on to it and expanded the universe of Dirty Dancing for this stage version.”

Much of what fans are paying to see remains the same, according to Craven. The stage production was written by Eleanor Bergstein, who authored the original script for the film, and the tour is choreographed by Michele Lynch, who based her work on Kate Champion’s original choreography. However, the cast of 24 does have new dialogue, Craven said, with an additional 20 scenes written by Bergstein.

Craven and the rest of the cast had to get up to speed quickly, with only a month of rehearsals to learn the show’s 36 musical numbers (music for which will be performed live by an eight-piece band). The physical toll wasn’t the difficult part, Craven said. Learning nine different styles of ballroom dancing, on the other hand, was a big source of study. “The demands of this show are so specific and stylized in ballroom, there was definitely a lot of new information in the rehearsal process.”

The film continues to resonate: Last year, 10,000 fans took in a 30th anniversary outdoor screening of the film in New York’s Bryant Park. Craven, who had seen the film before he signed on to the project, knew it was beloved. He wasn’t prepared for the sheer devotion fans have to the characters, however.

“I had heard about it. When I sat down with the director [Sarna Lapine] and writer [Bergstein] on the first day of rehearsals, Eleanor said: ‘My great gift to you in this project is the audience. Because the audience is going to go nuts for this.’ And it’s true. They go crazy for it, they have their favourite lines, favourite moments, favourite characters, so that has been a very unique thing to step into on this one. As an actor, you don’t always get that kind of feedback from an audience.”