Before people knew how to Dougie, and before Twerking swept the nation, there was Dirty Dancing. For every moon-eyed girl who imagined swirling round in the embrace of Johnny Castle, or any guy who fancied himself Swayze reincarnate, there’s an opportunity to embrace the classic on a whole new level. The North American Tour of Dirty Dancing hits the Marcus Center in downtown Milwaukee next Tuesday at 7:30.
What began as an eight week workshop in Manhattan in the fall of 2001, evolved into a wildly successful classic turned story on stage in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and later the U.K.
“As I learned how many people watched the movie over and over and over,” said Eleanor Bergstein, screenwriter for the original film and book writer for the musical, “I began to think that what they really wanted was to share more intensely in the event to step through the screen and be there while the story was happening. And if that was true, then its natural form was the theatre.”
You can expect many songs cut from the original, more of Baby and Johnny and most of all more dancing.
There will be a special student rush for tickets two hours prior to each show at the Marcus Center Box Office, for twenty-five dollars apiece. These are available in person, cash only for one ticket per valid college I.D. (Subject to change and show availability.)
Summer love, sneaking out, bumping and grinding to the “Twist and Shout”; maybe the music has changed since 1963, but this coming of age story with its iconic, passionate characters and bold displays of dance and forbidden love will never lose its luster.
Professional dancer and actor Christopher Tierney plays heartthrob dance instructor Johnny Castle. Frances “Baby” Houseman is played by Julliard graduate Gillian Abbott, this being her National Tour debut. This North American Tour opened last year, again bringing the story to life with iconic pop-culture characters played by dedicated actors and dancers, one of whom being Jenny Winton, a.k.a “Penny Johnson.” After an opening night elsewhere with a full house and a good crowd, Winton took a moment out of her rigorous schedule to share insight on being a part of the production.
Winton, was professionally trained in Ballet at the San Francisco Ballet School, before she joined with the Joffrey Ballet. She had never given much thought to acting until the Dirty Dancing casting director contacted her, interested in casting a professional ballerina for the role of Penny. At twenty-five, Winton knew this was a young age to stop dancing ballet, yet she accepted the role and opportunity of a new experience.
“I remember it being a classic in my mind,” she recalled. Though she never saw the film in its entirety as a teen, she remembered the classic iconic images; the bridge scene, the final lift. Never having acted before, and shifting from the technically difficult and physically demanding ballet, to the “looser, more grounded Latin dancing,” started with three and a half weeks practice in New York, a week of technical training, and a lot of support from fellow cast members and crew. Taking to theater quickly, she embraced the opportunity to be a “normal person onstage,” in acting, as opposed to some of the rigidities of dance and ballet.
Winton and her character, the fiery female dance instructor Penny Johnson, share some similarities that allow her to better embody the role.
“Penny’s great because she’s got so many layers to her,” Winton said. “She’s headstrong, a working class princess. Very respectable, but she’s sensitive.”
Winton has found that, in acting, you can use hard situations that you’ve been through in your life to portray the drama in the story, even if they aren’t exactly the same.
“I approach people with a softer front than Penny does, but deep down I’m also hard to break down. We share some of the same qualities, but use opposite approaches. It’s fun to play qualities that I have but don’t always use, and equally fun to slowly bring out the qualities that people know me for,” she said.
Penny, Johnny, Baby and the rest will mamba, salsa, and dirty dance their way through the Marcus Center next week, bringing the classic story, live to our doorstep.