East Penn Press

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage,” 30th anniversary North American Tour, 7:30 p.m. June 21, 22, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage,” 30th anniversary North American Tour, 7:30 p.m. June 21, 22, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton.

Dancing in the seats: It’s summertime and the time is right for ‘Dirty Dancing’ musical

Saturday, June 23, 2018 by DAWN OUELLETTE Special to The Press in Focus

Maybe you saw the movie “Dirty Dancing” with your friends when it opened in theaters in 1987, or maybe you became a fan when you saw it on television one night.

However you came to love “Dirty Dancing,” and you know who you are, there’s no denying the power of the iconic love story and the hold it has on fans’ hearts.

“Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage,” with all of the music, romance and dancing of the movie, plus more, stops during its 30th anniversary North American Tour, 7:30 p.m. June 21 and 22, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton.

“‘Dirty Dancing’ just celebrated its 30th anniversary,” said Aaron Patrick Craven, who plays Johnny Castle, made famous by Patrick Swayze (1979--2009) in the original film.

“That’s three generations of people loving it. That’s amazing.

“I think it still resonates so well with so many because of the universal themes. There’s Baby’s coming of age, first love, and taking control of your own destiny no matter what others think.

“And, of course, the ballroom dancing just ties it all together.”

Craven is a trained dancer who graduated from Wichita State University with a degree in dance and choreography. While admiring the dancing and acting of Swayze, he tries to make the role his own.

“I like to think I’ve made it my own,” Craven says. “Swayze laid the groundwork. I pay my respect to him while bringing myself into the role.”

Craven breaks the fourth wall when Johnny dances past audience onto the stage during one of the show’s scenes. Audiences roar with applause when he appears in the aisles.

Craven leads a cast of 24 that includes Kaleigh Courts (Francis “Baby” Houseman), Anaïs Blake (Penny Johnson), Erica Lee Cianciulli (Marjorie Houseman), Nickolaus Colõn (Billy Kostecki-Singer), Ryan Cupello (Robbie Gould), Buddy Daniels Friedman (Mr. Schumacher), Rick Grossman (Max Kellerman), Demitra Pace (Lisa Houseman), Owen Russell (Neil Kellerman), Christopher Robert Smith (Dr. Jake Houseman) and Ramond Thomas (Tito Suarez).

The ensemble is: Alex Caldwell, Ayla Ciccone-Burton, Amanda Clement, J’royce Jata, Hunter Mikles, Honza Pelichovksy, Erica Philpot, Joshua Clifton Powell, Hannah Straney, Jay Stuart, Kesley Walsh and Aidan Ziegler-Hansen.

The musical features an eight-piece band that performs the timeless hits on stage, led by Conductor Alan J. Plado, keyboards; Associate Conductor Jonathan Marro, keyboards; Ethan Hack-Chabot, guitar; Michael Bliss, reeds; Adam Hradisky, drums; Ryan McCausland, percussion; Jared Pasimio, bass, and Patrick Stouffer, trumpet.

The touring production has new direction by Sarna Lapine (“Sunday in the Park with George,” Broadway, and “War Horse,” North American tour).

“As I learned how many people watched the movie over and over and over,” said Eleanor Bergstein, screenwriter of the film “Dirty Dancing” and book writer for the production, “I began to think that what they really wanted was to share more physically 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 theater: live audiences watching live bodies dancing and singing here and now in the present, on the log, on the bridge, on the dance floor and in the staff quarters at Kellerman’s.

“Writing it for the stage, I was also able to add more scenes with Baby and Johnny, more about the family, more about the period in which it was set, more songs I couldn’t afford last time, and, best of all, more dancing.

“We have added 20 new original scenes and 36 numbers of live music played by an eight-piece band onstage, which invite the audience to come into Kellerman’s and experience the story in a whole new way as a live event as it happens.”

Agrees Craven regarding the stage version, “There is so much material that you have not seen on screen. There are all your favorite lines and dance numbers and so much more that’s new and exciting.”

The North American tour production is choreographed by Michele Lynch based on the original choreography by Kate Champion.

The creative team includes Mikiko Suzuki, Scenic Design; Ken Billington, Lighting Design; Jennifer Irwin, Costume Design; Leon Rothenberg, Sound Design; Bernie Ardia, Hair Design; Conrad Helfrich, Music Supervisor and Orchestrations, and Alan J. Plado, Music Director.

Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132