It’s hard to earn the title of “classic,” and even more so to be labelled a cult classic. Can a story and its characters withstand the test of time? Find out on Nov. 11 at the Crown.
“Dirty Dancing” is one of a very few stories that can and has. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the original film’s premiere. It was a commercial success and a pop culture phenomenon that managed to reinvent itself onstage decades later.
“Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” will have an exclusive one-night show at the Crown Theatre Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
According to Broadway World, what began in 2001 as an eight-week staged workshop in Manhattan was parlayed into a sensation in its own right. The official stage premiere at the Theatre Royal in Australia in 2004 sold more than 200,000 tickets in a six-month run. Its five-year run at London’s West End is the longest-running production in the theater’s history. The highest advance sales in European history occurred when “Dirty Dancing” premiered in Germany in 2006.
But what’s even more special for Fayetteville is that one of its own has been cast in the North American tour.
Nickolaus Colõn, born and raised in Fayetteville, plays Billy Kosteki (Johnny’s cousin). Colõn started taking acting classes at the age of 7 at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, where he would continue to perform for 10 years. He went on to graduate from the renowned University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in drama in 2015.
When asked what it was like returning to his old stomping grounds with a huge company at his back, Colõn said, “I almost cried when I saw the touring sheet. You can’t ask for something more than that. It’s not about fame. It’s not about fortune. It’s just about this. I get to come back and make a career out of performing these amazing stories, especially for my hometown.”
This being the fourth year of the North American tour, there’s both old and new blood in the production. Sarna Lapine, fresh off of directing Jake Gyllenhaal in “Sunday in the Park with George,” is its new director. She is joined by the show’s original music supervisor, Conrad Helfrich, and choreographer Michele Lynch. Along with the classic songs from the film, several more than that. It’s not about fame. It’s not about fortune. It’s just about this. I get to come back and make a career out of performing these amazing stories, especially for my hometown.” This being the fourth year of the North American tour, there’s both old and new blood in the production. Sarna Lapine, fresh off of directing Jake Gyllenhaal in “Sunday in the Park with George,” is its new director. She is joined by the show’s original music supervisor, Conrad Helfrich, and choreographer Michele Lynch. Along with the classic songs from the film, several morepieces have been added to the set list.
Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote the screenplay for the film, has also been at the helm of the stage adaptation since the start. In an article for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, Bergstein said, “This is the summer that Martin Luther King made his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and that was very important to me, because three months later, (Robert) Kennedy is assassinated. This is the last summer that you believed you could reach out your hand and change the world.”
Bergstein had also described her desire to not disappoint fans of the movie with a subpar stage adaptation.
Colõn insists audiences are in for something different. His character Billy, for example, is best known in the film as the guy carrying watermelons with Baby as she sees real dirty dancing for the first time. But in the play, Billy actually has his own love interest with another counselor, Elizabeth, on the grounds. Billy is white, Elizabeth is black, and it’s 1963.
“That was a pretty big deal for a young white guy to be falling in love with a black girl,” said Colõn. “So Eleanor has added this whole other subplot and so much more. People will always love the movie, but they’re going to love the show even more because they’re going to get so much more out of it.”
This incredible persistence to really portray the cultural and social moment of the 1960s has been echoed by many outlets that have seen the musical. Critics have also raved that “Dirty Dancing” is nostalgic fun with electric dance numbers to rival the original film.
Colõn said, “It’s one of those things where the movie has such a specific, fond memory in basically everyone’s heart in America. It’s either a first kiss or a first date. It’s (someone saying)oh, I learned how to dance because of this … The first night, we finally had our first crowd and they were lively and fun. Then Johnny comes up and he’s like ‘Nobody puts Baby in the corner,’ and the whole crowd goes wild, and every night that’s the one thing that you can guarantee will happen.”
Get tickets while they last at www.crowncomplexnc.com.