'Dirty Dancing' stage star: 'Everything people love from the movie (is) all there'

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
Kayleigh Courts and Aaron Patrick Craven star in "Dirty Dancing"
Courtesy Celebrity Attractions

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Baby's out of the corner and right at center stage in the next Broadway Spotlight Series production.

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story Live on Stage will hit town for two performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St. Tickets are $27 to $68, plus fees. Call 806-378-3096.

As the extended title says, the film has been faithfully replicated for the live production, star Kaleigh Courts said.

"The storyline is very, very similar to the movie," Courts said. "The woman who wrote the movie (Eleanor Bergstein) who wrote the movie also wrote the stage show, and she was there throughout our staging process, every day. We really got the background story of Dirty Dancing, and she was able to dig deeper into every single character."

Bergstein's film, which has built an incredible following since its debut in 1987, pays tribute to the Catskills Mountains entertainment scene of the 1960s, where she herself was a teenage dirty dancer. The naïve Baby (played in the film by Jennifer Grey) and her family are on summer vacation when she meets Johnny Castle (the late Patrick Swayze) and falls madly in love while learning the mambo.  

"Everything people love from the movie — all the lines, all the scenes — they're all there," Courts said.

That seems to be a hit with audiences since the show launched in 2004 in Australia and since 2014 across North America.

"There's lots of cheering at the lines, especially 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner.' We definitely get a huge roar from the audience," Courts said. "And I hear from people in the audience that there are plenty of people who can say the words right along with us."

Cast members like Courts and Aaron Patrick Craven as Johnny recreate the film's action, while an onstage band and singers perform the songs.

"One of the most exciting things is that the audience is right there with us," Courts said. "You are in the world of Dirty Dancing, and everything is unfolding around you. We have so much live music — two vocalists and an eight-piece band. It really is just an immersive experience."

Unlike Baby, Courts actually is a highly trained dancer — three years in the professional company of Houston Ballet and four years in the Houston Ballet Academy.

But like her character, she's in a whole new world.

"This is my first tour, my first stage theater production — this is all very new to me," Courts said. "I really hadn't done musical theater before, but the more I started talking to people, the more I realized it wasn't unheard of for ballerinas to go into the musical theater world.

"I had never gone on stage and had to talk before," she continued. "It has been a process of learning how to use my breath ... (and) my words to act and tell a story."

One thing she learned: She didn't have to copy movie star Grey's every move.

"I had never acted before, so I came in (after successfully auditioning) and thought I needed to be exactly like the movie," Courts said. "Our director made me realize quickly that was not what we were going for. It freed me up to find the Baby in myself and find myself in Baby."

But one thing is consistent: Baby, at first, cannot dance. After all, how else would she bond so quickly and so passionately with dance instructor Johnny?

"I came in the first day, feeling like such a great dancer ... and they were like, no, you need to be bad. You need to be terrible," Courts laughed. "It was so hard to get that in my brain — what terrible (dancing) was — because I've trained for so long."



Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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