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Dirty Dancing

The mood in the auditorium of Thalia Mara Hall at 8pm on January 20th was pure excitement as audience members waited to be immersed in the iconic story of 'Dirty Dancing', brought to life on stage. Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage's performance was part of the Broadway in Jackson series presented by Trustmark. The touring production is presented by Amber Jacobsen, Networks Presentation LLC, Col Joye in association with Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions.

Eleanor Bergstein's 'Dirty Dancing' is one of the most successful independent films in history. With such memorable lines as "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" and "I carried a watermelon," the 1987 movie is a beloved classic. Ms. Bergstein, though, didn't stop at the big screen. She wanted viewers to feel like they were more physically involved in the story, and as a result, created a theatrical event that combined the well known story with dance and music on stage. With this stage version, Ms. Bergstein was also able to include the songs "Save the Last Dance for Me" by the Drifters and "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" by Marvin Gaye, songs that she was unable to obtain for use in the movie. The production promises some serious (dirty) dancing, and with the current touring cast, it definitely delivers.

Though not necessarily a musical in the traditional sense, Conrad Helfrich's orchestrations provide music to highlight the original and stage-specific choreography by Kate Champion and Michele Lynch, respectively, and occasionally serves as back for outstanding soloists Aidan Ziegler-Hansen and Erica Philpot. The all-star ensemble, along with the incredible Anaïs Blake as Penny Johnson, Johnny's dance partner and a young lady who has gotten into some serious trouble, and Aaron Patrick Craven as Johnny Castle, a young man who didn't have a great childhood and spends his life expecting others to look down on him for it, bring the heat with breathtaking, sizzling dance numbers. Kaleigh Courts does the role of Frances "Baby" Houseman perfect justice, beginning as a less-than-coordinated, naïve young lady and transforming into a confident, fluid dancer who knows what she wants and doesn't give up till she gets it. Her easy chemistry with Aaron makes you start rooting for them right from the start, and makes that final scene electric, eliciting gleeful applause from the audience.

The rest of the Houseman family consists of Christopher Robert Smith in the role of Dr. Jake Houseman, Baby's protective father, Erica Lee Cianciulli as Marjorie Houseman, Baby's well-meaning mother, and Demitra Pace as Lisa Houseman, Baby's sister, who doesn't want to help Baby most of the time but also doesn't want her "dead in a ditch". Ryan Cupello plays Robbie Gould, the sleezy young man that Lisa is infatuated with. Max Kellerman, the owner of Kellerman's, the setting for the show, is played by Rick Grossman. His grandson, Neil Kellerman, the young man who initially takes interest in Baby, is played with great comedic timing by Owen Russell. Buddy Daniels Friedman takes on the role of Mr. Schumacher, the older gentleman with sticky fingers. RaMond Thomas is Tito Suarez, the band leader, who plays a larger part in the stage production than the movie. Hannah Straney plays the promiscuous Mrs. Vivian Pressman, whose husband is often away, leaving her to her own devices.

This show, with its stellar cast and a story so widely known and well-loved, is one that no fan of the movie, theatre lover, or just someone looking for a fantastically fun evening should miss. The tour heads to The Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky on January 23rd and then on to Vern Riffe Center for the Arts in Portsmouth, Ohio on the 24th. See links below for info on how to get tickets!

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