Kaleigh Courts wasn’t obsessed with the classic 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.” In fact, at 22 years old, she wasn’t even a baby when the movie came out in 1987. But thanks to her family, she had plenty of indirect exposure to the film.
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“I wasn’t actually allowed to sit down and watch it ’til I was older,” Courts said. “My mom and sister are obsessed with it. Growing up, I was always hearing, ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner.’”
After its 30th anniversary in 2017, the characters, choreography, music and timeless story of “Dirty Dancing” has been taken from the screen to the road in “Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage,” which comes to the Lexington Opera House for five performances this weekend.
The Broadway touring production of “Dirty Dancing” holds true to the cinematic version’s original story, which centers around 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman (Courts) and her family going off to a vacation resort in the Catskill Mountains in 1963. She finds herself intrigued by and attracted to the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Aaron Patrick Craven). Despite their vastly different backgrounds and upbringings, the two develop chemistry both on the dance floor and romantically, as Johnny is encouraged to teach Baby to dance when his regular dance partner is unable to perform — one of many circumstances and challenges their love for each other must overcome so they can be together.
“Dirty Dancing” was adapted to the stage in 2004, with original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein penning the stage story. Courts said the story is identical, with the exception of more than a dozen extra scenes to give some background to specific characters and put the story in more historical context. The various movie scenes are re-created with relative simplicity, and Courts said that lends itself to an overall feeling of what makes “Dirty Dancing” so appealing.
“I think the movie is so relatable,” she said. “If you go back and watch it, it doesn’t have a ton of thrills and lights and action and everything. It’s kind of simple, in a way. Everyone can kind of put themselves in Baby’s position and Johnny’s position.”
Instead of looking at your screen, you’re surrounded by the energy of ‘Dirty Dancing.’
For “Dirty Dancing” to work on stage, the Baby and Johnny dynamic is crucial in their interactions on and away from the dance floor. Courts is no stranger to dance, having spent seven years with the Houston Ballet in Texas, but this is her first time acting in a stage production. Despite their skills as dancers (Courts said she and Craven nailed the climactic lift at the end of the show on their first attempt in rehearsal), having to portray the iconic roles played by Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, respectively, made her think hard about performing for fans of the popular romance.
“I think at first, it was a lot of pressure,” she said. “We had a moment in the rehearsal process where he said, ‘They wouldn’t cast you if you weren’t right for the part. You are the part.’ That really allowed me to be free to find myself and to find the character within me.”
Courts said fans of the original “Dirty Dancing” will certainly get what they want in the stage version, and a little bit more. They’ll get to see every single dance step that certain camera angles might have hidden, and and the movie soundtrack’s hit songs — “Hungry Eyes,” “(I Had The) Time of My Life” and every other recognizable tune — will be performed by a live band.
“It’s very similar, but it’s more exciting because you bring it to life,” she said. “Instead of looking at your screen, you’re surrounded by the energy of ‘Dirty Dancing.’ They love it. We take it to another level. It’s not just a movie.”
Blake Hannon: firstname.lastname@example.org