Category Archives: Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage

tales from the press world

I am approaching my one year anniversary of working at Margie Korshak, Inc. on the Broadway In Chicago account – and let me tell you that there has rarely been a dull moment! One of my favorite things about my job is that I am rarely at my desk and each day brings something new.

After a year, I thought it might be fun to look back and share some of my favorite moments:

  • My first PR duty for Broadway In Chicago ― taking cast members from Wicked on an Architecture Boat Cruise on a beautiful day in September. I think I even managed to get some sun, too!
  • The one year anniversary of Jersey Boys. What else can you say except a citywide pizza party and closing the show with Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town” is pretty cool!
  • Escorting Annaleigh Ashford and Jenny DiNoia from the cast of Wicked to a Bears game to sing the National Anthem. It was freezing cold, but it was worth it as they were amazing! Plus, I was able to walk on the field, watch very good looking football players warm up and stand next to the bench during the National Anthem.
  • “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” Dirty Dancing is a link to my childhood – How could I not love it?!
  • Wicked’s final performance. Although I only worked a short time with the show, it was sad to see Wicked leave Chicago… But the cast party at The Dana Hotel after the final performance was a great party!
  • Meeting the magnificent and legendary Richard Chamberlain when he was in town starring as King Arthur in Monty Python’s Spamalot. It was a privilege to spend time with him.
  • Having lunch with John O’Hurley, who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld, between television interviews at Italian Village while he was in town with Chicago The Musical. I am a HUGE Seinfeld fan, so need I say more?
  • Watching the first preview performance of Mary Poppins at the Cadillac. I was moved to tears and it quickly became one of my favorite shows. Then getting to know the cast… how wonderfully talented, kind and energetic they were. They are all missed!
  • Having Sir Elton John at a press conference on Tuesday announcing that Billy Elliot the Musical is coming to Chicago. We are very excited for March 2010.

John O'Hurley

Stage Door for final WICKED performance

Ashley Brown as Mary Poppins. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Dominic Scaglione Jr. in a scene from JERSEY BOYS. Photo: Joan Marcus.Elton John Announcement 033

Overall I think I have a pretty cool job…

There are many more fun stories, but so little space. I will be back with more tales from Broadway In Chicago’s press world in a month or two… See you then!

-Anne, Broadway In Chicago press agent

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Filed under Billy Elliot the Musical, Broadway In Chicago, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Celebrity, Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, Spamalot: The Third Coming, Wicked

Another Op’nin’, Another Show

What a weekend! Broadway In Chicago has a total of 5 shows running concurrently since Friday night! XANADU had its first preview on Friday and the audience loved it – they shot up at the end of the show to give it a standing ovation. The show looks better here in Chicago than it did on Broadway, but you all know that I am extremely prejudiced. Really, it is a smaller theatre so the entire production seems much more intimate and the experience is a little more in your face than it was on Broadway. We had such great audiences over the weekend, they all loved it.

We also said goodbye to DIRTY DANCING and GREASE. This week we say hello to SPAMALOT at the Auditorium. GREASE closed Sunday and SPAMALOT loads in and has its first performance on Tuesday. Richard Chamberlain is starring in the show and it will be his first performance ever in SPAMALOT, right here in Chicago! We open to the press on Wednesday, so keep your eye out for the reviews in the papers.

I begin this week with a heavy heart as this is the final week of WICKED. This Sunday, January 25 at 2:00 p.m., WICKED will close after 1500 performances & 3.5 years. There will be a lot of closing articles on the show. I would consider finding them and saving them as they are sure to be collector’s items, just like the Obama special sections! There will be a great party for the cast, crew, and staff of Broadway In Chicago. This is a show that we all consider as family. Next Monday I will give you the down low on who cried. I can’t tell you how much this show has meant to Broadway In Chicago and for the City of Chicago – and me. As they say in the song “I have been changed for good.”

It is all okay though – Chicago closes their hometown WICKED but inaugurates a hometown President! Oh that reminds me Broadway In Chicago has a huge one day sale tomorrow that you should not miss $44.00 to all the upcoming shows. Click here for more details!

-Eileen

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6 things to learn about dancer Britta Lazenga of Dirty Dancing

  

Chicago Tribune

Britta Lazenga, 27, can be seen tearing up the stage at the Cadillac Palace eight shows a week co-starring in the pre-Broadway national tour of “Dirty Dancing—The Classic Story on Stage.” It’s a return home for this former Joffrey Ballet dancer, who steals the show as Penny, the leggy dance instructor from the wrong side of the tracks.

1. After growing up in Pittsburg and Minneapolis, “I moved here when I was 18 to dance with the Joffrey Ballet, so I feel like Chicago is more of a home than anywhere. My mom dropped me off with some stuff, we furnished my apartment, and then she left and I didn’t know a soul in the city! So I made a life for myself here. Chicago feels more personal to me than anywhere else.” During the show’s run in Toronto, she says she felt homesick, especially for her favorite North Side eateries, Rose Angelis and Las Mananitas.

2. Face look familiar? Lazenga was one of the Joffrey dancers glimpsed on film in Robert Altman‘s “The Company.” Plus: “I’m actually on the cover [of the DVD]—I’m right behind Neve Campbell at the barre.”

3. Face still look familiar? Lazenga, with her long curls and delicate features, could pass for the film actress Elizabeth Berkley. “People always ask me if I was in ‘Showgirls.’ It is weird—there are moments when she’s looking in the mirror [in the movie] and I’m looking in the mirror getting ready to do a show, and it’s like, yeah, we do sort of have a definite resemblance. I think she’s beautiful, so I’m like, OK!”

4. “Dirty Dancing” casting directors found Lazenga on the Joffrey Web site in spring 2007. She auditioned on a Monday and was offered the job the following Thursday. Timing is everything. “Friday was the day that my contract [renewal] with the Joffrey needed to be turned in.”

5. After seven years with the ballet company, she was ready for a change. “I don’t have all the ideal things that you need to be a huge ballet star, and I knew that. I think maybe the last two years at the Joffrey I was sort of entertaining the idea of doing something else. I just kind of felt like I was plateau-ing.”

6. Onstage, Lazenga looks impossible tall—she’s 5 foot 8, but closer to 6 feet in her high-heeled dancing shoes, a big change from her toe shoes. “The first week was hard. My feet were so blistered and sore. I mean, I had different ailments now and then when I was a ballet dancer. It’s still extremely physical, but now I’m only able to dance on the ball of my foot. I feel it in my back.” Before each performance, she warms up by doing a series of classical ballet exercises at the barre. “That, and sit on the heating pad.”

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‘Dirty Dancing’: If Baby doesn’t sing, is it still a musical?

Chicago Tribune

  

Don’t cry for “Dirty Dancing—The Classic Story on Stage.”

Baby and Johnny out-sold “Wicked” and “Jersey Boys” in Chicago during the week of Oct. 6-12, pulling down an impressive $993,540 at the box office of the Cadillac Palace Theatre, according to figures published in Variety.

And by Tuesday of last week, a week when decidedly mediocre reviews hit this and other newspapers and Web sites, the latest big show to hit the Chicago boards had already passed the $1 million mark in weekly sales.

Recession? Clearly, Chicagoans still want to see Baby break out of her corner. Even if she doesn’t sing.

“Dirty Dancing,” which originated abroad, will play Chicago, its first U.S. engagement, through January. Boston is next. Then Los Angeles. Then, probably next fall, Broadway.

A spokesman for the show said he couldn’t confirm the Broadway engagement but noted that the show is proceeding according to its original plan and that the creative team is very happy with how things had gone in Chicago.

The show, has done very well in several countries and is unlikely to change much now. No matter what American critics have to say.

The “Dirty Dancing” phenomenon takes some figuring out.

The show is unusual because it’s not a traditional musical but an explicit stage re-creation of the movie that uses mostly prerecorded music. Minor characters sing from time to time, but the stars don’t (as they did not in the 1987 movie). The show doesn’t camp up the movie—on the contrary, “Dirty Dancing” takes the coming-of-age tale in the Catskills very seriously, even adding to its subplot involving the civil rights movement.

Actors who look very much like the actors who played the same roles in the movie speak lines mostly taken from the movie.

There are moments of genuine artistry—many from Britta Lazenga, the former Joffrey dancer who plays Penny. For anyone used to the rules of legitimate musicals, the show is nothing short of baffling.

Why doesn’t Baby sing about, say, her first sexual experience or the feeling of being a dancer? Why is the theatrical environment digitized so it almost looks like a movie on the stage? Why are the most prosaic movie scenes re-created in such expensive detail? Why are there no full, legitimate dance numbers, just cinematic snatches of dance, as is in the film?

What the heck is this thing anyway? And why do so many people seem to love it?

In part, the show’s free-wheeling style reflects its genesis in Australia and London, where producers and audiences take their musicals much less seriously. London’s West End may have given birth to noble Shakespearean revivals and such legitimate musicals as “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” but its theaters also accommodate many much looser entertainments that don’t owe very much to Broadway traditions and are more rooted in pop-culture nostalgia.

Along with “Dirty Dancing” (which still does huge business in London), there’s also “We Will Rock You,” a show featuring the music of Queen. Nobody dared bring that show to Broadway—”We Will Rock You” made its debut in Las Vegas in a production so eye-poppingly bad by traditional theatrical standards, it even shocked Sin City.

Yet “We Will Rock You” still does very nicely in the U.K.

It’s not alone. The British public eagerly awaits the spring arrival of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical,” an entertainment based on the camp movie of the same name. Like “Dirty Dancing,” that one comes from Australia too.

In the U.S., where the artistry of musicals is studied in universities and taken more to heart, such entertainments tend to be confined to arenas, low-grade cable networks and Vegas casinos. Had this version of “Dirty Dancing” toured to the Allstate Arena or the United Center, it likely would have been treated as an entertainment novelty and reviewed as such. But even Vegas is no longer an obvious repository for pop-culture schlock. Shows there must now compete with the high-end Cirque du Soleil, whose latest original project, opening later this month at the Luxor Hotel, involves the magician Criss Angel, multiple millions of dollars and an attempt to fuse the arts of circus and magic. Baby would struggle to compete with that.

So “Dirty Dancing” is using the infrastructure of touring Broadway. And that’s why it seems so strange.

But the popularity of “Dirty Dancing” suggests that the golden rules of musicals—those hallowed criteria of originality, live artistry, fresh scores and integration of disparate elements—might matter a lot more to critics and serious aficionados of the form than they do to the public at large. To large swaths of the public, “Dirty Dancing” does exactly what they want it to do.

So there you have it. Commercial theater is always a dance with the populist devil. Broadway long ago figured out that audiences like to go to the theater and relive their favorite musicals. It is happy to take their money. “Dirty Dancing” merely takes things to their logical extreme. Quite well, really.

Panic not. Serious musical theater will survive.
 

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Eye On Chicago, interviews with Josef Brown and Amanda Cobb: Dirty Dancing

CBS 2 Chicago

Interview with Josef Brown and Amanda Cobb

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CELEBRATE THE ELECTION OF OUR 44TH PRESIDENT WITH $44 TICKETS ON NOVEMBER 4

BROADWAY IN CHICAGO INVITES CHICAGOANS TO VOTE, THEN CELEBRATE THE ELECTION OF OUR 44TH PRESIDENT WITH $44 TICKETS ON NOVEMBER 4.

All Tickets to DIRTY DANCING, JERSEY BOYS and WICKED are $44 For One Night Only – Tuesday, November 4, 2008 – with promo code VOTE

CHICAGO (October 21, 2008) — Broadway In Chicago encourages all Chicagoans to vote and then celebrate the election of the 44th President by offering theater patrons $44 tickets on Election Day, November 4, 2008, to the international stage hits DIRTY DANCING, JERSEY BOYS and WICKED. Election returns will be announced during intermission and at the close of the show. By using the promo code VOTE, patrons may purchase any seat in the three theaters on Tuesday, November 4 for only $44. Seats regularly priced below $44 will remain at their regular price. Offer details can be found at http://www.BroadwayInChicago.com/specialoffers. Tickets are available at Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (18 W. Monroe St., 24 W. Randolph St. and 151 W. Randolph St.), through the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (312) 902-1400, at all Ticketmaster ticket centers (including all Hot Tix, select Carson Pirie Scott, Coconuts and fye stores) or online at Ticketmaster.com. Groups of 20 or more should call (312) 977-1710.

Performances for all shows on Tuesday, November 4 begin at 7:30 p.m.

DIRTY DANCING – The Classic Story On Stage is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W.Randolph St.) through January 17, 2009. A coming of age love story, this show tells the story of atalented and headstrong dancer, Johnny Castle, and Frances “Baby” Houseman, a doctor’s daughter with dreams of joining the Peace Corps. The production is an extraordinary experience that explodes with heart-pounding music, spectacular emotion and sensationally sexy dancing.

The Chicago Company of JERSEY BOYS, the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, recently celebrated their first anniversary playing at the Bank of America Theatre (18 W. Monroe St.). This group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time, writing their own songs, inventing their own sounds and selling 175 million records worldwide – all before they were thirty.

Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. How these two unlikely friends end up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch makes for the most spellbinding new musical in years. The Chicago Company of WICKED will take its final bow on January 25, 2009 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.) after more than three recordbreaking
years in Chicago.

For more information, visit http://www.broadwayinchicago.com

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All Over The Map

By: Dan Bacalzo, Tristan Fuge, and Zachary Stewart 

TheatreMania

10/1/08

This Beautiful City in Los Angeles, Dirty Dancing in Chicago, and The Toxic Avenger in New Brunswick, NJ.

“What’s going on in the Evangelical communities in America is very important politically and culturally to what’s going on in America generally,” says Michael Friedman, the composer for The Civilians’ This Beautiful City, now playing the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles (and which is scheduled to be produced by New York’s Vineyard Theatre next year). The piece is culled from and inspired by a series of interviews that the New York-based avant-garde troupe conducted in Colorado Springs in 2006. “We couldn’t have picked a better place to do this project than there, partly because of the way the community works, and partly because while we were there was such an explosive time.”

A large part of that explosiveness had to do with the Reverend Ted Haggard, who was ousted from his pulpit at the New Life Church in November of that year after admitting to having sex with a male prostitute. The scandal is part of the Civilians’ play, but Friedman says that it’s used “as a kind of catalyst event, rather than the main story. We would’ve followed New Life anyway, no matter what happened.”

Friedman’s songs are almost all based on the interviews themselves, and incorporate some of the actual language used, while also spanning various musical styles including cowboy songs, worship rock, and country & western. “I don’t know any other group that uses music quite as dogmatically as a tool for its documentary theater,” he says. “The music stylizes the situation and shows we’re taking liberties with the text. We’re trying to capture something real from the experience artistically, not only holding up a mirror, but also trying to say something.”

The message of This Beautiful City, however, varies depending on who you talk to, says Friedman. “Different audiences read this piece differently,” he notes. “While there are certain things we want to get across, we also want to leave some of the questions raised open. Different people come in with different perceptions, and rather than try to create a show in which everyone has the same reaction, we tried to embrace that.”

 

— Dan Bacalzo

************

 
 

While theatergoers are increasingly being presented with musical stage adaptations of films from the not-too-distant cinematic past, Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, now getting its American premiere at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theater, is different than many of its predecessors, explains director James Powell. “It is not a conventional musical by any stretch; it’s a play with music,” he notes. Still, the show, which concerns a sheltered teenager who falls for a more worldly dancer at her parents’ Catskills resort, definitely lives up to its title. “The dancing is breathtaking,” he says.

As with any stage adaptation, the audience’s expectations must be taken into account, notes Powell, speaking of his biggest challenge. “In my position, I’m either accused of being too literal or depriving the audience of what they anticipate,” he states. “That’s a very fine line to tread. There are moments in the play where we use our technology in an abstract fashion because we can’t do a literal translation right to stage. You have to guide your audience deftly through that, yet you also have to honor what the audience is expecting and add to that experience as opposed to diluting it.”

Powell, who is British and helmed the show’s London production, has now changed a few things that were specifically created for the European audience — which was not familiar with the American iconography surrounding a summer in the Catskills. “Here, you would be browbeating your audience and insulting their intelligence if you left that in.” he says. In fact, he points to a similar situation with a musical in which he appeared as an actor. “When Les Miserables opened in France, they did it without the prologue. It was such a famous book there,” he says. “The prologue was only added to help an audience that wasn’t French.”

 

— Zachary Stewart

************

 
 

When Joe DiPietro decided to adapt The Toxic Avenger, the independent film favorite about a mutant with his sights on cleaning up New Jersey’s most heinous polluters, into a musical — now getting its world premiere at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey — he turned to his former Memphis collaborator and Bon Jovi guitarist David Bryan. “David is one of the funniest people I know, but he also writes real rock-n-roll songs you could play on the radio and he puts them in a theatrical context,” says DiPietro.

In keeping with the movie’s plot, the musical centers around a love story between the avenger — once Melvin and now Toxie — and a blind librarian he saves from the hands of criminals. “My first thought was that I wanted the play to be as low-budget as the movie,” says DiPietro. “So we wrote a five-character piece with two actors as the lovers, a woman playing the dual role of the evil mayor and Toxie’s mother, and two guys playing 20 other roles.”

DiPietro, who is best known as the author of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, made sure he and Bryan wove a more serious layer into their musical. “It’s an out-and-out comedy, but there’s also a message of global warming underneath,” he says. “We really tried to keep the spirit of The Toxic Avenger alive.”

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Creator of “Dirty Dancing” keeps the legend alive

September 28, 2008

Eleanor Bergstein is a delicate woman with artfully frazzled hair, a high-pitched, almost girlish voice and the overall manner of an aging hippy.

As the author of “Dirty Dancing,” the mega-movie and now mega-stage hit, you believe her when she says, “I think I have a secret dancer inside me who connects me to the world.”

Certainly she stirs that secret dancer in others. “Dirty Dancing” the movie and now stage musical (which begins previews Sunday at the Cadillac Palace Theatre) are one thing. “Dirty Dancing” the myth is something else. What Bergstein tapped into with her 1987 film turns out to be enduring social reality. It draws on the oft-repeated description of partnership dancing, especially the ballroom brand so critical to this tale, as virtual lovemaking, enacted in public by couples standing up. Ballroom dance is glitzy, shimmering, hokey as all get out, fond of performers in sparkling Vegas attire and thick pancake make-up. It is also a primal, insatiable human hunger, a little bit dirty, if you will, one reason that 21 million viewers just last Monday tuned in to TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

Then and now, Bergstein’s tale touches women. “It’s about the coming of age of a young girl and that pain,” says James Powell, director of the musical. “There aren’t many stories that examine that pain as well as this does.”

nd it touches men. “The original movie gave guys permission to dance,” Powell says. ” ‘I can be hot-blooded and heterosexual and vividly sexy and still do that.’ Patrick Swayze [the movie’s lead, Johnny] made men free to be themselves on a dance floor.”
Double nostalgia
For those living on Mars for a couple of decades, “Dirty Dancing” tells the story of Baby, the sheltered but liberal daughter of a doctor, and her romance with Johnny, dance instructor and hunk from across the tracks. It’s set at a Catskills resort in 1963.

Bergstein labels the time as “the last summer when you believed if you reached out and touched the world, you could make it better.” It was, she notes, the summer of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Beatles, the Kennedy assassination, riots and so much else would come later. A lot more than Baby’s innocence is about to end.

These days, “Dirty Dancing” is nostalgia-within-nostalgia. A movie set 24 years in the past in its day is now 21 years old itself, and yet somehow current. Always in defiance of critics and experts, mind you. “Dirty Dancing” the movie, before its release, was supposed to flop. “We were told the whole time we were making it that it was junk,” Bergstein recalls. “Just before opening, they advertised it with acne cream, and distributors and exhibitors, who hated it, said [if] we were lucky we’d get a short-lived preteen audience and then go straight to video.”

Instead, the movie became not just a hit, but a pop cultural touchstone, its title insinuating itself into media lingo, advertising slogans and public consciousness. Audiences picketed theaters to keep it running.

The fever ebbed but didn’t die, spread by perpetual reruns, video and DVD sales. Bergstein remembers, “The thing that struck me most is when broadcasters scheduled it to run repeatedly all day, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

“Certainly, it’s not the best movie ever made,” Bergstein continues in explaining the success. “I could sit and watch it with you and grimace with massive mortification over everything in it I wish that were better. But there’s this flicker enabling memory or something that stirs you, so that you want to be in its presence. That’s why I decided to let it play in its natural form, which is live theater, after 20 years resisting.”

Reviews still mixed

The nobody-loves-it-but-the-people saga is repeating itself. Despite mixed reviews, some of them harsh, the stage production has been a success in Australia, Germany, Holland and Canada. Two years ago, it broke all records for advance ticket sales in London.

“There are critics who’ve not taken kindly to it, but there are plenty who have,” Powell says. “After Toronto, I talked with [producer] Cameron Mackintosh and [director] Richard Eyre back in London and told them I was stung by a comment or two, but that the box office was tremendous. They said, more or less together, ‘Well, better that than the other way around.’ ”

The young cast and players in Chicago reveal, in their own back stories, the tale’s ongoing heft. Josef Brown, who plays Johnny, says the movie lured him to dance. “For kids like me, in a tough, all-boys school, the movie told of this guy who was a street kid and yet vulnerable too. It’s OK to be masculine, but it’s OK to dance as well.”

Britta Lazenga, a former Joffrey Ballet dancer who plays Penny, Johnny’s friend and dance partner, says she was affected by the movie at an early age—without even knowing it. “When I was 6 or 7, I had a friend who’d play the cassette, and we’d make up dances in her basement to the music,” Lazenga recalls. “I only realized years later, when I finally saw the movie, that it was the ‘Dirty Dancing’ soundtrack.”

“It had a profound affect on me,” says Amanda Leigh Cobb, who is making her debut as Baby here. “It’s one of those movies whose moments and feelings you remember. The love story struck me first, but, the more I watched, I was drawn into the political story, Penny’s illegal abortion and the coming of age for Baby, not just with Johnny, but with her father and the world.”

The stage production, which goes by the full title of “Dirty Dancing—the Classic Story on Stage,” is atypical. Leads Brown and Cobb dance but don’t sing, leaving that to other cast members, while the score is a mix of ’60s classics and such hits from the movie as “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes.”

“It’s a story that’s entirely driven by dance,” says Kate Champion, lead choreographer for the show. She and Bergstein strove to maintain the movie’s magical dance gumbo. “They picked me because they didn’t want the usual suspects,” suggests Champion, a contemporary choreographer who runs her own modern Australian troupe. There’s ballet, as well. The flashy double turn Swayze performs at the end of the movie is now part of an ongoing motif—Brown, as Johnny, flubs it a few times before mastering it.

Except for one number, there also isn’t wholesale unison dancing, the synchronized choral dances that dominate most shows. “Kate and I both believe in the movements of everyday life,” Bergstein says. “You can’t really follow more than one or two couples in any given stretch,” Champion says.

‘Dancing is a solace’

Bergstein learned to dance growing up in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, taught by tough kids, including some who wound up in jail. Later, she taught at an Arthur Murray school, and she also worked for a time with prisoners in Mississippi, who confessed they would sometimes practice the steps from “Dirty Dancing” while alone in their cells.

“Dancing is a solace for those who lack an articulated language to express their powerlessness,” she says. “When Johnny teaches these women, including Baby, something happens between them, something very personal passes back and forth.”

There’s a quote from Wallace Stevensthat begins, “The greatest poverty is not to live in a physical world,” a quote Bergstein likes to tape to dressing-room mirrors. She isn’t just a lover of dance; she’s a true believer.

“Dancing,” she says, “connects you to the physical world in a way that makes your soul precise.”

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Chicago’s Pre-Broadway Premiere of “Dirty Dancing”

NWI Times

By Molly Woulfe

9-26-08

When it comes to romance, the movie “Dirty Dancing” (1987) is a teen dream. Nice girl meets tough guy at a Catskills resort. He teaches her to shake her maracas. She teaches him to trust.

Then Frances “Baby” Houseman and Johnny Castle fall in love, and their passion grand jet念191;?s over minor issues — irate parents, social snobbery and class differences — mirroring growing unrest in 1963 America.

The dance partners-turned-sweethearts are tested when Baby’s physician father (Jerry Orbach) presumes Johnny impregnated an ex-flame. The hunk is framed and fired.

Happily, love and truth prevail in the course of an hour and 45 minutes. Johnny (Patrick Swayze) literally sweeps Baby (Jennifer Grey) off her feet in the finale. Swooooooooon.

The rest is box-office lore. The sweaty $5 million sleeper raked in more than $170 million worldwide, spawning a TV series, a sequel and copycat films. It also made Swayze (“Ghost”) a star and added his line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” to the national lexicon. The closing number “(I’ve Had The) Time of My Life” bagged an Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy.

Fast forward more than three decades. Inspired by the film, “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” shimmies into Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre Sunday night for what is billed a pre-Broadway run through Dec. 7. And “DD” screenwriter-playwright Eleanor Bergstein, who based the script on her Brooklyn girlhood, is having the time of her life.

She’s “thrilled, really thrilled” her coming-of-age romance, which first tangoed on stage in 2004, is finally Stateside.

“It was always meant to be a stage musical. What people wanted, when they watched it over and over, was to break through the flat screen and be part of the action,” the original Baby said.

Like her alter ego, Bergstein — still girlish at 70 — summered with her doctor-father, mother and sister (Frances) at luxury Jewish resorts in the Catskills. Unlike Baby, she was a teen mambo queen, with a not-so-secret life as a dirty dancer, honing her bumping and grinding in Brooklyn rec rooms.

Later she worked as an Arthur Murray dance instructor, an experience that helped shape the role of Johnny. “There’s a lot of both Johnny and Baby in me,” she said, her eyes twinkling.

Judging from ticket sales, Mr. Tight Pants and Baby still have legs, too. The dance romance has drawn mixed reviews yet full houses in Germany, New Zealand and London. Thanks to the export of American pop culture, theater-goers worldwide have found the summer romance between Baby, 17, and the not-so-bad Johnny irresistible.

NEW FACES

As was the case with “Dirty Dancing,” the stage cast is heavy on unknown. Aussie actor Josef Brown, fresh from creating the role of Johnny Down Under and in London, is reprising his role in the U.S. production.

The 6-foot-2 hoofer came late to dance and theater. In true Johnny Castle style, he began auditioning for plays at a local girls’ school so he could meet girls. He later trained at the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne, marrying a fellow dancer at a Sydney company. Wife Katherine and their two young children are touring with him.

He’s “never actually dirty danced” with his wife, “but we danced a lot when we were partnered in Sydney,” Brown said.

The 30-something remembers “Terminator” — not “Dirty Dancing” — being released in the ’80s. But when he finally did catch “DD,” Brown found a role model in Swayze/Johnny. Tough guys could dance!

“All of a sudden, you see this guy, a straight guy, cool (dancing). When you’re at that age, you want to be all those things. And of course, you’re not,” Brown said.

As for Baby, she will be played by Texas native Amanda Leigh Cobb, a Yale-trained actress who appeared on Broadway in “The Country Girl” and “The Coast of Utopia.” The 5-foot-4 Cobb is a near-ringer for Grey’s character. And identifies with her, she said.

She, too, was an idealist and a bookworm, Cobb said. Growing up, she loved the “DD” video. But now she appreciates the subtext of the story. “It’s set in 1963, the summer of Martin Luther King’s (“I Have a Dream”) speech, before President Kennedy got shot, before The Beatles came,” she said. All the characters “are on the cusp of a very interesting political time. …. That makes this a really rich story and tapestry to work with.”

HOW DIRTY IS ‘DIRTY?’

Brown and Cobb are part of a cast of 39 — a staggering size by today’s standards — hired for the show. The script has been expanded to round out Johnny’s character as well as Baby’s parents’, Bergstein said.

The score includes 35 songs, including “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and “(I’ve Had the) Time of My Life.” Former Joffrey dancer Britta Lazenga will play the role of Penny, Johnny’s ex-partner.

The creative team behind the London and Toronto productions has re-teamed for the U.S. premiere, scheduled for stops in Boston and Los Angeles. The show is directed by James Powell, with choreography by Kate Champion.

So just how dirty is the dancing? The leads border on coy, a hint that “DD” live may involve more simulated sex than the PG-13 movie.

By its nature, erotic dancing calls for two people to make an intimate connection, Brown said.

“It’s not actually a spectator sport,” he said. “If the couple does it right, watchers feel like voyeurs, like, ‘Maybe I’m watching something I’m not supposed to be watching.’ When it’s done well, you get a redness in the cheek, a blush,” he said.

He personally thinks the numbers aren’t that scandalous. “I think it’s impossible to shock an audience today, with MTV, with everyone shaking their booty. (That’s) like soft porn,” he said.

The focus “is definitely lower in the body,” said Cobb, who warned her mother about the steamier numbers. “There’s a great line, as Baby is learning to dance. Johnny says, ‘It’s not on the one. It’s not the mambo. It’s a feeling, a heartbeat. Try to feel the music.’ Like Baby, that’s something I’m learning to do. … It’s delicious, so delicious, when you get it down.”

“Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage” U.S. premiere

When: Sunday through Dec. 7

Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago

Cost: $35 to $95. Premium tickets are $125 to $150.

FYI: Broadway in Chicago ticket line at (312) 902-1400, Ticketmaster or Hot Tix outlet or http://www.ticketmaster.com.

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Dirty Dancing Announces Principle Cast

by: Theatre in Chicago

Dirty Dancing The Classic Story On StageThe U.S touring production of the international hit Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage has announced principal casting for the upcoming pre-Broadway U.S. premiere.  Josef Brown will re-create the role of Johnny Castle direct from the London production and Amanda Leigh Cobb will play Frances “Baby” Houseman.  Chicago’s own Britta Lazenga – member of the Joffrey Ballet – will return home direct from the Toronto production in the role of Penny Johnson.

The National Tour of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage will host its pre-Broadway U.S. premiere in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.) for a limited engagement from September 28 through December 7, 2008.

Josef Brown comes to the National touring company direct from the London and Australian productions of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage starring in the role of Johnny Castle.

Britta Lazenga is a Chicago-based dancer and member of the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet.  Lazenga says about her casting in the U.S. premiere, “It fills me with great joy and tremendous honor to be returning home to perform in the American premiere of Dirty Dancing

Amanda Leigh Cobb recently performed on Broadway in The Country Girl and The Coast of Utopia and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.  Her other credits include the Yale Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Shakespeare and the Williamstown Theater Festival. 

The rest of the casting for the U.S. premiere of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage will be announced at a future date.

Proclaimed “The biggest live theatre sensation of all time” by The Observer newspaper in London, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage also received four stars from The Times, The Independent, Financial Times, Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Times and Time Out London.

Individual tickets ranging in price from $35 – $95 are currently on-sale.  A limited number of premium tickets are available to all performances and range in price from $125 – $150.  Tickets are available at Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (18 W. Monroe, 24 W. Randolph St. and 151 W. Randolph St.), through the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at 312-902-1400, at all Ticketmaster ticket centers or online at Ticketmaster.com.

For more information on the Dirty Dancing Principle Cast visit:

Variety

Theatre in Chicago

Chicago Sun Times

Chicago Tribune

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