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DPAC Hopes Triangle Theatergoers Will Have the Time of Their Lives at “Dirty Dancing” on Sept. 16-21

The North American tour of "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage" stars Jillian Mueller as Frances "Baby" Houseman and Samuel Pergande as Johnny (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The North American tour of “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” stars Jillian Mueller as Frances “Baby” Houseman and Samuel Pergande as Johnny (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The Durham Performing Arts Center hopes that Triangle theatergoers will have the time of their lives on Sept. 16-21 when Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, starring Samuel Pergande as suave and oh-so-sexy Catskills resort dance instructor Johnny Castle and Jillian Mueller as awkward 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman, comes to the Bull City.

Set — liked the movie — in the summer of 1963 at Kellerman’s, a Catskill Mountains resort in southeastern New York State, the 2004 Sydney, Australia and 2006 West End musical is based on the surprise dance movie sensation of the summer of 1987, Dirty Dancing, written and co-produced by Eleanor Bergstein and directed by Emile Ardolino and starring then 35-year-old Patrick Swayze as Johnny and then 27-year-old Jennifer Grey as Baby.

Dirty Dancing not only made big stars out of Swayze and Grey, but its soundtrack roared to the top of the Billboard 200, and spent 18 weeks at number one. Moreover, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (sung by Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and California singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes) won the 1987 Academy Award® for Best Original Song, the 1988 Grammy Award® for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and the 1988 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

“All of the iconic music from the film is in our show,” says 36-year-old Milwaukee, WI-born actor and dancer Samuel Pergande (pronounced “per-gan-day”) “A majority of the music is played live by a band on stage with us.”

In addition to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” the musical’s score includes “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” and “Do You Love Me?” Pergande says the show’s script, penned by the movie’s screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, allows the audience to relive their favorite moments from the movie…. They really will have the time of their lives! … In fact, they’re usually dancing in the aisles by the end of the show….

“All the iconic moments from the film are in the musical,” says Pergande, who trained at the Milwaukee Ballet School, the San Francisco Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Vail, CO. He has toured with the American Ballet Theater of New York City and the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, IL.

Under the direction of Gerald Arpino, he danced a number of principal roles, such as Lucencio in John Kranko’s Taming of the Shrew, Romeo in Kranko’s Romeo and Juliet, Cavalier in Robert Joffrey’s Nutcracker, Faun in Nikiski’s Afternoon of a Faun, Aston’s Monotones II, and Blue Pas in Jiri Kalian’s Return to a Strange Land.

Pergande also performed in the 2003 dance film The Company, directed by Robert Altman. He has performed in the U.S. national tour and in the Toronto cast of Billy Elliot and, most recently, played one of the main characters of the Orlando, FL production of La Nouba for Montréal, Canada-based Cirque du Soleil.

Samuel Pergande, Jillian Mueller, and Jenny Winton star as Johnny, Baby and Penny in the North American tour of "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage" (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Samuel Pergande, Jillian Mueller, and Jenny Winton star as Johnny, Baby and Penny in the North American tour of “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Samuel Pergande says, “The audience is going to fall in love with the characters of Dirty Dancing all over again.”

The Durham Performing Arts Center is the second stop on the 2014-15 North American tour of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, which commenced on Aug. 26-Sept. 14 at The National Theatre in Washington, DC, and is currently scheduled to end on July 7-12, 2015 at the Bass Performance Hall in Ft. Worth, TX. Produced by Amber Jacobsen, NETworks Presentations, LLC, Grove Entertainment, Col Joye AM (Colin Jacobsen), Lionsgate, and Magic Hour Productions, the tour is directed by James Powell and choreographed by Michele Lynch

The Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage creative team also includes original choreographer Kate Champion, set designer Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting designer Tim Mitchell, costume designer Jennifer Irwin, hair designer Bernie Ardia, sound designer Bobby Aitken, video and projection designer Jon Driscoll, and music supervisor Conrad Helfrich.

In addition to Samuel Pergande as Johnny and Jillian Mueller as Baby, the tour cast includes Mark Elliot Wilson as Baby’s father, Dr. Jake Houseman, who is personal physician to resort owner Max Kellerman (Gary Lynch); Caralyn Kozlowski and Emily Rice as Baby’s mother, Marjorie Houseman, and her older sister, Lisa; and Jenny Winton as Johnny’s dance partner Penny Johnson, who is pregnant by a local Lothario Sam Edgerly as Robbie Gould.

The tour cast also includes Doug Carpenter as Billy Kostecki, Jerome Harmann-Hardeman as Tito Suarez, Jesse Liebman as Neil Kellerman, Herman Petras as Mr. Schumacher, Amanda Brantley as Vivian Pressman, Jon Drake as Moe Pressman, and Jennlee Shallow as Elizabeth/Singer. The Ensemble includes John Antony, Rachel Boone, Rashaan James II, Joshua Keith, Kevin Munhall, Phoebe Pearl, and Virginia Preston; and Swings include assistant dance captain Josh Drake, Alexandra Matteo, and Michael Thomas Pugliese.

Samuel Pergande admits, “It’s definitely harder to play a role that’s identified with Patrick Swayze. The movie is part of American culture. People identify with this film…. So, there’s definitely pressure and expectations that you want to live up to.”

But, Pergande adds, the tour cast has the benefit of picking the brain of Dirty Dancing screenwriter and Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage playwright Eleanor Bergstein. “Eleanor provides us with the background on how Patrick and Jennifer discovered those characters,” he says.

“As I learned how many people watched the movie over and over and over,” said Eleanor Bergstein in the DPAC news release for the show, “I began to think that what they really wanted was to share more intensely in the event, to step through the screen and be there while the story was happening. And if that was true, then its natural form was the theatre — audiences watching live bodies dancing here and now in the present — on the log, on the bridge, on the dance floor and in the staff quarters at Kellerman’s. Writing it for the stage, I was also able to add more Baby and Johnny scenes, more about the family, more songs I couldn’t afford last time, and, most exciting of all — more dancing.”

Lionsgate Television chief operating officer Sandra Stern added: “Dirty Dancing is one of our most beloved and timeless properties. Its magic has enchanted audiences on film, television, DVD, and digital platforms alike, and it remains a perennial best-seller in our film and television library. We’re delighted to participate in the latest stage incarnation that will introduce Dirty Dancing to a whole new generation of fans, and we expect the stage play to prove yet again that nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

"Dirty Dancing" Samuel Pergande and Jenny Winton star as Johnny and Penny (photo by Matthew Murphy)

“Dirty Dancing” Samuel Pergande and Jenny Winton star as Johnny and Penny (photo by Matthew Murphy)

In reviewing the tour’s first stop at The National Theatre, Leslie Milk of The Washingtonian raved: “Samuel Pergande smolders as Johnny Castle, the man with the all the right moves. Pergande’s background is more dance than acting, but Johnny Castle always said more with his hips than his lips anyway.”

Jane Horwitz of The Washington Post added: “An energy-to-burn cast, led by the striking and balletic Samuel Pergande as dance instructor Johnny Castle and winsome Jillian Mueller as hotel guest Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, carries an audience along with ease. James Powell has directed the quick scenes with the precision of a traffic cop. The full-skirted sundresses by Jennifer Irwin add much to the nostalgia — as do the awful sports jackets. The band, set above the stage and led by Alan Plado, maintains rhythm and polish throughout.”

Jennifer Minich of the MD Theatre Guide wrote: “A towering giant of a man and an extraordinarily gifted dancer, Samuel Pergande (Johnny) is convincingly and heart-breakingly disillusioned and vulnerable. The chemistry between Pergande and [Jillian] Mueller is unpracticed and palpably electric. United on stage, they professionally execute well-known scenes from Dirty Dancing the film with stunning originality of feeling (‘Love Is Strange,’ ‘Hungry Eyes’ and ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’).”

Six-foot-tall Samuel Pergande is amused to be called a “towering giant of a man.” But if the show’s early reviews are any indication, he will get plenty of chances to wow the nation’s theater critics before the show makes its final stop in Ft. Worth, TX on July 7-12.

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 14th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks:; Sept. 11th Raleigh, NC Raleigh interview with Jesse Liebman, conducted by Jeffrey Karasarides:; Sept. 11th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); and Aug. 26th New York, NY preview by Michael Gioia:

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents DIRTY DANCING: THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16-18, 8 p.m. Sept. 19, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 20, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at DPAC at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $46.54-$167.48 (including fees), except


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and


THE TOUR:,, and









Dirty Dancing (1987 film): (Turner Classic Movies), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook page), and (Wikipedia).

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage (2004 Sydney and 2006 West End musical): (Wikipedia).

Eleanor Bergstein (screenwriter and playwright): (Internet Movie Database) and (Wikipedia).

James Powell (director): (Internet Broadway Database).

Michele Lynch (choreographer): (official website) and (Internet Broadway Database).

Samuel Pergande (actor who plays Johnny Castle): (tour bio).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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