“Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage” at the Pantages Theatre
Long before “Dancing with the Stars,” the movie “Dirty Dancing” excited audiences with its story about how magic can happen on the dance floor between two unlikely partners. And now the story has waltzed back into our lives with the hit film having been turned into a sensational musical. “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage” is playing at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The movie has been re-imagined for the stage (by the original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein), exploding with heart-pounding music, breathtaking emotion and sexy dancing.
A lot of the sex appeal of the show rests on the hunky shoulders of Josef Brown, in the role of Johnny Castle. Brown has played Johnny in London and Australian productions, and has seen audiences worldwide embraced the story of Baby and Johnny, two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.
“Talking to fans around the world, they love the romance and say the dancing is sensual. It’s really a coming of age tale for Baby, and for the courage that Johnny develops. It’s the story about dancing that compels people to come. You can fall in love on the dance floor. There’s a great feeling when you find a dance partner who you’re able to open up with, you sort of feel this kinetic energy bouncing back and forth between you. It’s such an intimate space you share when you’re dancing. It’s like falling in love, and everyone can see it,” says Brown, a former lead dancer with the Sydney Dance Company.
“It’s such a surprise when headstrong Baby and Johnny make that connection because to look at them, no one would ever think that those two would ever go together,” Brown explains. “But when they dance, something magical happens. And love blossoms, which changes both of them. This lovely story focuses on how Johnny is teaching Baby to open up physically, and come to terms with her body and sensuality. Then she ends up teaching him about who he is, and about making more courageous decisions in his life. She makes him believe that you can hope for change in the world, and enact change by the actions you take. It’s really interesting how the back and forth of the dance is a metaphor for what’s happening in their relationship. And the characters constantly surprise each other by the choices they make. I think that’s what people like about the story,” he says.
Brown has embodied the role like a second skin because he’s been doing the show for a long time, and because he sees a parallel to his own life. “In some ways, I didn’t have to look too far for Johnny Castle. I was a young man from the lower middle-class streets who wanted to dance, and had to find a way of dancing. And there are parallels with Johnny,” says the handsome performer from Australia.
Co-starring with Brown is Amanda Leigh Cobb playing Frances “Baby” Houseman. “Dirty Dancing” features a cast of 39, and features an astonishing 35 hit songs including “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping Academy Award-winning® “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” The Broadway/L.A. presentation of “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage” is at the Pantages Theatre May 8 through June 28.