Toronto 's Dirty Dancing Finds Its Baby and Johnny; Full Cast Announced
July 25, 2007
By Kenneth Jones
The fall North American premiere of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage , the British-made stage show of the popular Hollywood picture, will feature Torontonian Jake Simons as Johnny Castle and Monica West as Frances "Baby" Houseman.
The dance-heavy stage musical begins performances Oct. 31 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto . The show is a sensation in London .
The casting announcement follows an extensive search across Canada and some major cities in the United States . The Toronto run is produced by David Mirvish, by arrangement with Jacobsen Entertainment, in association with Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions.
Played by Patrick Swayze on film, Johnny Castle is the headstrong dance instructor who captures Baby's heart at the Catskills resort known as Kellerman's.
Simons was raised in Kitchener , Ontario . His credits include West Side Story (Stratford Festival), Song and Dance (Theatre Calgary), Grease (Elgin Theatre), Aladdin (Elgin Theatre) and the television show "Queer as Folk." Most recently, he played the lead role in the television series "Metropia." He's also an accomplished singer-songwriter and plays guitar and saxophone.
Emerging American actress West trained in classical ballet at the Rochester City Ballet, and graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee , WI . She has appeared in productions at the Barrow Street Theater and 59E59 Street Theater in New York City , The Guthrie in Minneapolis and New Jersey 's George Street Playhouse. She has also been seen on "One Life to Live"; in films at Sundance, GenArt and SXSW; and at Performance Space 122 in Manhattan where she performed her live one-woman show, Dear Dad, Confessions of GoGo.
Writer and creator Eleanor Bergstein stated, "I am delighted to introduce our brilliant and original cast for Dirty Dancing . It is a difficult show to cast as the roles are quite demanding and challenging. The cast is largely Canadian simply because the depth of talent we found here was so stunning and unmistakably passionate. I feel lucky to work with such wonderful performers."
Full casting was also announced July 25.
Britta Lazenga will play Penny, "Johnny's mesmerizing but troubled dance partner"; Al Sapienza will play Baby's father, Dr. Jake Houseman; Victoria Adilman will play her mother Majorie; and Natalie Krill will be Baby's sister Lisa.
Victor A. Young plays Max Kellerman, "namesake of the resort at which the iconic story is set," with Adel Gigantes as Vivian, Eric Fink as Mr. Schumacher, Dylan Trowbridge as Neil Kellerman, Kent Sheridan as Moe Pressman, Rudy Webb as Tito Suarez, Ben Mingay as Billy, Jeffrey Wetsch as Robbie, Tyler Murree as Stan and Joyce Krenz as Mrs. Schumacher.
The ensemble includes Michelle Black, Lydia Bouchard, Karen Burthwright, Peter Buzny, Christopher Compton, Diana Diaz, Milda Gecaite, Ryan Gifford, Elizabeth Gordon, Bryan Hindle, Jodi McFadden, Sarah Murphy-Dyson, Tammy Nera, Jesse Robb, Jaz Sealey, Jason Sermonia, Jivaro Smith, Christopher Tierney, Michael Torontow, Jonathan Whittaker, Johnny Wright and 2005 Canadian Idol winner, Melissa O'Neil.
Jake Simons stated, "I have been preparing extensively for the role of Johnny Castle with dance and fitness training. It is a challenging role to play as it is very physical and involves a lot of dance. I feel honored to play a character who, for an entire generation, redefined dancing for men, making it both sexy and acceptable."
West stated, "I remember the first time that I watched the film, I identified with Baby and felt her joy and pain as she finds first loves in both Johnny and dance. I was deeply moved by Baby's integrity to stay true to herself and admired her determination. In the stage production, there are brand new scenes that weren't in the film and I feel privileged to be able to introduce something fresh to the original text of the much-loved film."
The Toronto production will be staged by the same creative team as the London production, including writer and creator Eleanor Bergstein (who also wrote and co-produced the film), director James Powell, choreographer Kate Champion, musical supervisor Conrad Helfrich, set design Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting design Tim Mitchell, sound design Bobby Aitken, video and projection design Jon Driscoll, costume design Jennifer Irwin and Latin and ballroom choreographer Craig Wilson.
The Toronto staging has already broken Mirvish Productions' box office records, selling out many performances months before November's to-be-named opening night. Rehearsals begin in late August.
The Royal Alexandra Theatre is at 260 King Street West , in Toronto . For more information, visit www.dirtydancingonstage.com .
For single tickets, call TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333.
This is the Official web site of Al Sapienza.