Booking for the dance-heavy musical at the Royal Alexandra Theatre already extends to June 2008, due to popular demand. The show by writer-creator Eleanor Bergstein (who also wrote and co-produced the hit 1987 film) features Torontonian Jake Simons as Johnny Castle and Monica West as Frances "Baby" Houseman.
Played by Patrick Swayze on film, Johnny Castle is the headstrong dance instructor who captures Baby's heart at the Catskills resort known as Kellerman's. It's 1963 and Kennedy is alive, the Beatles have not yet arrived, and Baby's hope, she thinks, is to find a man as good as her father.
The Toronto production is staged by the same creative team as the London production: director James Powell, choreographer Kate Champion, musical supervisor Conrad Helfrich, set designer Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting designer Tim Mitchell, sound designer Bobby Aitken, video and projection designer Jon Driscoll, costume designer Jennifer Irwin and Latin and ballroom choreographer Craig Wilson. The gala opening night will be Nov. 15.
Musical numbers are drawn from many sources, including the hit soundtrack from the movie. The score includes "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" (which won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Song), "Hungry Eyes," "Hey Baby" and "Do You Love Me?"
The musical is already a sensation in London, and given the popularity of the movie title it's based on, it was only a matter of time before it leapt to North America. It will arrive in the U.S. a year after its bow in Canada; the production will begin at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre in fall 2008, according to the official Dirty Dancing website. The Toronto cast was culled from auditions across Canada and some major cities in the United States. The Toronto run is produced by David Mirvish, by arrangement with Jacobsen Entertainment, in association with Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions.
Simons (Johnny) was raised in Kitchener, Ontario. His credits include West Side Story (Stratford Festival), Song and Dance (Theatre Calgary), Grease (Elgin Theatre), Aladdin (Elgin Theatre) and the television show "Queer as Folk." Most recently, he played the lead role in the television series "Metropia." He's also an accomplished singer-songwriter and plays guitar and saxophone.
Jake Simons stated, "I have been preparing extensively for the role of Johnny Castle with dance and fitness training. It is a challenging role to play as it is very physical and involves a lot of dance. I feel honored to play a character who, for an entire generation, redefined dancing for men, making it both sexy and acceptable."
Emerging American actress West (Baby) trained in classical ballet at the Rochester City Ballet, and graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. She has appeared in productions at the Barrow Street Theater and 59E59 Street Theater in New York City, The Guthrie in Minneapolis and New Jersey's George Street Playhouse. She has also been seen on "One Life to Live"; in films at Sundance, GenArt and SXSW; and at Performance Space 122 in Manhattan where she performed her live one-woman show, Dear Dad, Confessions of GoGo.
Britta Lazenga plays Penny, "Johnny's mesmerizing but troubled dance partner"; Al Sapienza plays Baby's father, Dr. Jake Houseman (played by Jerry Orbach in the movie); Victoria Adilman will play her mother Majorie; and Natalie Krill will be Baby's sister Lisa.
Victor A. Young plays Max Kellerman, "namesake of the resort at which the iconic story is set," with Adel Gigantes as Vivian, Eric Fink as Mr. Schumacher, Dylan Trowbridge as Neil Kellerman, Kent Sheridan as Moe Pressman, Rudy Webb as Tito Suarez, Ben Mingay as Billy, Jeffrey Wetsch as Robbie, Tyler Murree as Stan and Joyce Krenz as Mrs. Schumacher.
The ensemble includes Michelle Black, Lydia Bouchard, Karen Burthwright, Peter Buzny, Christopher Compton, Diana Diaz, Milda Gecaite, Ryan Gifford, Elizabeth Gordon, Bryan Hindle, Jodi McFadden, Sarah Murphy-Dyson, Tammy Nera, Jesse Robb, Jaz Sealey, Jason Sermonia, Jivaro Smith, Christopher Tierney, Michael Torontow, Jonathan Whittaker, Johnny Wright and 2005 Canadian Idol winner, Melissa O'Neil.
The Toronto staging has already broken Mirvish Productions' box office records, selling out many performances months before November's opening night. Rehearsals began in late August.
The Royal Alexandra Theatre is at 260 King Street West, in Toronto. For more information, visit www.dirtydancingtoronto.ca or www.mirvish.com.
For single tickets, call TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333.