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‘Dirty Dancing’ brings beloved dance story to Eccles Theater

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Long before anybody "put Baby in the corner" and more likely by the time Baby carries the watermelons, audiences have been sold on the love story of the unlikely couple, Baby and Johnny Castle, in the much-loved story of “Dirty Dancing.” The 1987 movie became a massive hit at the box office, earning almost $214 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The soundtrack, featuring the hit “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” went platinum (so did a follow-up soundtrack), and the film was the first to sell more than 1 million copies on home video.

With so much success, everyone wants a piece of the pie. There have been numerous reimaginings and prequels (“Havana Nights”); Kellerman’s Hotel, where the movie takes place, hosts “Dirty Dancing" weekends; and there are numerous "Dirty Dancing" festivals.

However, the beloved tale is sacred ground for most “Dirty Dancing” enthusiasts. A made-for-TV remake recently aired on ABC and was completely lambasted by viewers on Twitter and other social media outlets, as reported by People.com. So, when a musical stage adaptation of the beloved story is mentioned, many eyebrows raise.

“I totally understand because I was a skeptic myself,” said Bronwyn Reed, who plays Baby in the Broadway touring production of “Dirty Dancing” that will be making its way to the Eccles Theater June 20-25. “I grew up watching it, I knew every line, and I love it so much. I was worried too. But there’s something about seeing it live on stage that is so magical.”

Reed notes the storyline is pretty much the same with a few additions.

“Our show doesn’t try to reinvent too much, and it doesn’t try to mimic. Christopher Tierney (who plays Johnny Castle) and I work hard to do justice to the original but also make them our own.”

Tierney, by the way, is worth having a crush on, as Johnny Castle should be, according to Reed.

“Oh, yes, Christopher is the best," she said. "He’s perfect for the role. He’s beautiful — an amazing, strong dancer, handsome and charismatic. Get ready!”

Unlike most musicals where the characters do the singing, “Dirty Dancing” features an onstage band that performs the very well-loved soundtrack of the show.

“We have incredible singers,” Reed said, adding that the role of the cousin, who famously gives Baby the watermelons to carry, has been expanded in the stage version. “He has more of an expanded part and falls in love with a Kellerman worker too. They have a beautiful love story and their voices are the soundtrack.”

Reed made a point to mention that Eleanor Bergstein wrote the script for both the movie and the stage adaptation and didn't miss a single detail.

“All of the iconic moments are there,” she said. “Like when Baby goes to Johnny’s cabin and the dance scenes.” And, in terrible spoiler alert fashion, “we get the lift every time!”

Reed has extensive experience as a dancer having trained with the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.

“I actually left dance," she said. "I took a really long break to focus on singing and acting for the last 10 years.”

Reed is best known for her recurring role of Lucy Huston on “Law & Order: SVU” and can be seen opposite Charlize Theron in “The Last Face,” which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. “So with this role I’ve been reimmersing myself in the world of dance,” she said.

All of Reed’s training has certainly helped, but it’s a different kind of challenge.

“We do eight shows a week. And for the first half of the show, Baby doesn’t know what she’s doing,” Reed said. “So the physicality is so challenging because she's bad at everything — she’s doing it wrong. For a dancer, it’s fun to tackle, but it’s hard on your body. Your alignment is off doing those movements over and over the wrong way.”

Reed does a lot of counterbalancing exercises, receives weekly massages and takes long Epsom salt baths after every show: “I just let my muscles soak for an hour.”

Salt Lake City will be the last stop for the “Dirty Dancing” tour.

“It will be bittersweet,” Reed said. “We’ve been together as a company for a year, and it’s been so wonderful. But I think it’s time to move on, and we’re all ready for the next challenge. We really have had the time of our lives.”

Content advisory: "Dirty Dancing" includes instances of sexuality, drinking, implied abortion and adult topics.

If you go ...

What: "Dirty Dancing" National Tour

When: June 20-25, times vary, matinees available

Where: Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main

How much: $30-$105

Web: artsaltlake.org

Phone: 801-355-2787

Erica Hansen was the theater editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."