Emile Ardolino’s “Dirty Dancing”—the 1987 hit movie that starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey—started off as a low-budget flick rejected by major studios. However, the persistence of its writer, Eleanor Bergstein, paid off big time.
“Dirty Dancing” became a huge box-office success, making $63,446,382 in the United States and, as of 2009, $214 million worldwide. It also made history as the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video.
The original soundtrack was just as profitable. It sold over 44 million copies and scored a Golden Globe and an Oscar (for best original song) and a Grammy (for best duet), for its theme, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”
The movie’s success was replicated onstage—with Bergstein reinventing the movie script (based on her summer escapades in a Catskills resort in the 1960s) into a stage musical in 2004.
“Dirty Dancing; The Classic Story on Stage” has attracted appreciative crowds in four continents—Australia, Europe, North America and Africa. It is currently playing at Artscape in Cape Town, South Africa (until March 10). The production has added Asia to its touring itinerary, with a July staging in the works for Manila.
Among the musical’s loyal fans are, not surprisingly, 1980s kids who must have seen themselves in Baby, the heroine—an affluent physician’s rebellious and free-spirited daughter who falls for Johnny, a dashing and dangerous dance instructor (the role made iconic by the late Patrick Swayze).
In a review, Daily Maverick’s (South Africa) Lesley Stones noted, “The stage production is faithful enough to the film to satisfy even the diehard fans. ‘Dirty Dancing’ still has the heat to set the stage on fire, although the raunchy moves are no longer dirty by today’s standards—just delightful.”
Stones’ summation: “Red-hot!” He found the steamy pas de deux of actors Mila de Biaggi (as Penny) and Gareth Bailey (as Johnny) “utterly mesmerizing.”
South African Byrony Whitfield, who portrays Baby, has been described as “excellent [in her role] as the clunky teenager who learns to tap into her inner sexiness.”
Iol.co.za’s Diane de Beer hailed the production as “an unprecedented live experience, exploding with heart-pounding music, passionate romance and sensationally sexy dancing.”
Blogger mzansilifeandstyle.com praised the staging as “magnificent… the singing, dancing and costumes… superb.”
An online report points out that there are 55 songs and 73 scene changes; Baby alone has 21 costume changes.
The right Johnny
More than the sets and costumes, finding the right Johnny proved to be the production’s biggest challenge.
De Beer reported that Bergstein and producer Karl Sydow picked “the Johnny” for every “Dirty Dancing” staging all over the world. “Everyone has Patrick Swayze in their minds.”
Produced by Pieter Toerien, Hazel Feldman and Sydow, “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” will be brought to Manila by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and James Cundall. It opens at the CCP Main Theater on July 4.