Dirty Dancing is the hit that almost didn’t happen. Screenings of the film were so disastrous that the film was almost released direct to video, which certainly would have led to a very different result. But the film that had a title before there was even a story was released and had a worldwide gross of $214 Million Dollars. Not bad for a film made on a budget of only 5 milliion.
Today with the cost of bringing a show to stage familiarity helps fill seats and Dancing has certainly done that. After solid reviews and selling out extended runs in London’s West End and breaking box office records in Ireland the stage version recently launched a thirty city North American tour that is currently playing Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park in Dallas and makes the trek across I-30 after the weekend to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall. I caught up with Cast member Josh Keith this week in Dallas to talk about his love of performing and why he thinks Dancing connects with audiences.
Keith was bitten early by the bug that told him the stage was where he belonged. “My parents took me to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company and I knew that was what I wanted to do.” His supportive parents immediately put him into dance classes. “I knew that I wanted to be on stage. I knew that it would be more than dance. I am also an actor and singer but I knew then dance was my first love. I have known I would be on the stage since I was eight or nine.”
It’s a common thread in people that I speak to that they know early on they long to be on the stage, yet arts programs are among the first to be cut in the schools. Josh credits his early involvement in such programs as key to the person he has become. “They are very important. They teach you self-awareness, responsibility, discipline and it teaches that what you want will not just be given to you. You have to work hard. Nothing in theater comes easy.”
Keith credits his success at Howard University to the principles he learned in theater programs. “People in the theater can usually do anything because we are disciplined. It makes you a stronger person and helps you figure out who you are because everything you are is what you bring to the character on the stage.”
This is also when he learned much of the wisdom he would pass on to those that want to follow in his footsteps. “Know who you are and what you bring to the table because you are going to get told no. Don’t give up, keep going, you are going to get many no’s before you get that one audition that is your big break. I say keep going!”
Keith says fans of the movie will not be disappointed with this stage adaptation. “It is wedded to the movie, so the script is the same. It is an amazing love story and an amazing show.” The musical brings the movie to life but manages to incorporate a big screen into the action. Live action is intertwined with a giant LED screen that becomes an important part of the cast. “We rely heavily on technology. Theater is going in a different direction and it is much more technologically savvy. Our show is extremely technologically advanced and the people really enjoy that.”
Dirty Dancing connects on so many levels. There is the visual, the music, the story but the real connection according to Keith is the music. “People love the dance but I think it is the music that really captivates people.”
Be captivated. Dirty Dancing plays Dallas Summer musicals at Fair Park through Sunday tickets at dallassummermusicals.org then heads to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall July 7th through 12th tickets at basshall.com
Next Up: Pippin at Dallas Summer Musicals, July 7-19 and then at Bass Hall July 21st-26th. The original production won eight Tony’s including Best Score and the recent Broadway Revival from which this tour springs won four including best revival.
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