all photos: Franz Mahr
There is something intensely magical about a performance run-through, as I discovered when I attended a rehearsal for Dirty Dancing—The Classic Story On Stage. After maneuvering my way through the (now officially unwanted) Spidermen and Elmo’s of Times Square, I arrived at the 42nd st. studio in which the group rehearses. When I walked into the room I was struck by two things; 1. Everyone was scary attractive and 2. The energy was palpable. As I took a seat behind the row of writers/directors/producers overseeing and taking notes, I looked around the room. Scattered about the hardwood floors were dancers practicing moves, actors laughing with one another, stagehands looking over props, and official-looking folk talking animatedly to one another.
And then, a hush. As each performer found his or her place I saw a few shaking out limbs, stretching out necks, and taking deep breaths. Others looked straight ahead, and a few looked down. Regardless of what they were doing the moment before the music started, once the first key was pressed everyone turned on. And, suddenly—as if it were as natural a routine as brushing your teeth in the morning—they transformed. Center stage was Samuel Pergande, playing the impenetrable Johnny Castle. His counterpart Baby, as played by Jillian Mueller, was equally entrancing. The entire cast, in fact, was awe-inspiring.
Like I said—it seemed natural. Easy, even. I can’t imagine how much work goes into making a coordinated dance routine of over a dozen look effortless—but I also wasn’t…at least not until now. And I think that’s incredibly powerful. When a performance is so tight, so organic, that the viewer (me) gets completely lost in the story—forgetting about the hours of work, blistered heels, and lack of sleep that goes into coordinating a show such as this—that is a sign of truly moving performance. And, from start to finish, I was theirs. They got me. And now, I just can’t wait to see it on stage.
I sat behind Eleanor Bergstein, screenwriter of the film Dirty Dancing and book writer for the musical. On the subject of this upcoming national tour she says, “I originally wrote the movie because I love to dance. And since the movie first appeared, the openhearted audience response has made me believe that everyone has a secret dancer inside them, one they feel could connect them to the physical world in the way they dream. This remarkable cast brings those dreams to life through their extraordinary talent and exceptional skill and it’s a thrill for us to have this group of people bring Dirty Dancing home to North America.” A thrill, indeed.
Be sure to catch Dirty Dancing at The National Theatre, for the North American tour kick-off. Performances are scheduled from August 26 through September 14, and tickets are available now. And if you’re hesitating at all, just scroll down a bit. Actually even if you’re not hesitating, take a scroll down.