STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Nobody puts Baby in a corner. But they will put her on stage at the Academy of Music as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series. The classic 1987 flick “Dirty Dancing” comes to life from March 24 through April 5.
The story revolves around Baby and Johnny, two independent young spirits from different worlds who come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives, according to the press release. It’s the summer of 1963, and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman is on vacation in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents. Mesmerized by the dancing she discovers in the resort’s staff quarters, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle.
The musical as well as the movie script were written by Eleanor Bergstein, who relied on parts of her own history for the story — she’s the younger daughter of a Jewish doctor from New York, spent summers with her family in the Catskills, participated in “Dirty Dancing” competitions, and was called Baby as a girl.
Producers say that fans of the movie won’t be disappointed — the music they know and the story they love is intact. And, of course, the famous lift scene will be featured.
Jerome Harmann-Hardeman, an actor with decades of experience and credits, plays Tito Suarez, the trusted friend, confidante, and mentor to the people he has worked with and for at the Kellerman’s resort. He said “Dirty Dancing” isn’t just about dancing.
“It’s about relationships, communication, changing times, listening, honesty,” he said. “It’s also about the energy of the youth.”
All of the kids come together with different ideals and goals, he said, and for those few months over that summer, “they become intertwined. They change, in some cases, each other’s lives.”
Harmann-Hardeman, who appeared in last year’s movie adaptation of the musical “Annie” with Jamie Foxx and has worked on and off Broadway, is proud to be part of such an iconic show. Seeing audiences who know the movie backwards and forwards enjoying the stage version is gratifying.
Some of the songs have been in the American culture for almost 30 years, since the movie came out — “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and “Hungry Eyes,” just to name two. Harmann-Hardeman never tires of the tunes.
“We have great singers,” he said. “And they’re really good songs.”
Before becoming a part of the touring cast, Harmann-Hardeman wasn’t aware of just how ubiquitous the music and the movie is. Once cast as Tito, he started noticing it more while flipping past TV and radio stations.
“I didn’t realize how much it is a part of the society,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”
He thinks the show has stood the test of time because the story itself is timeless.
“It’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s so many classic love stories, with a very modern theme,” he said.
The show is fun, but also timely and touches on issues that were relevant in the period of the piece and still today, he said. Producers, of course, say and Harmann-Hardeman thinks that, in keeping with the most well-known song in the show, that audiences will have the time of their lives.
IF YOU GO
What: “Dirty Dancing”
When: March 24 through April 5.
Where: Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia.
Tickets: $20 to $115.50
Info.: Call (215) 731-3333 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org.
Special event: “Dirty Lunch,” a preview, from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, March 13 in the Kimmel Center, Commonwealth Plaza, Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia.