It was the summer of 1963 and they were having “the time of their lives,” according to the Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes song written for the occasion.
The occasion was the blossoming romance between a 17-year-old girl and a handsome, virile dance instructor at a resort hotel in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
The semi-autobiographical story told by Eleanor Bergstein in a late-1980s screenplay became the basis for the blockbuster box office hit “Dirty Dancing.”
The film, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, gave birth to a Broadway musical version that opens its New Orleans tour dates at the Saenger Theatre on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
There will be six evening performances and two weekend matinees through Sunday, Dec. 21. At press time, seats for most of the shows were close to selling out.
“Dirty Dancing” is the coming-of-age, end-of-innocence saga of Frances “Baby” Houseman. She is the youngest of two daughters of a prominent physician whose patients include the Kellerman brothers, owners of a popular resort hotel in the Catskills.
While vacationing at the Kellermans’ hotel, Baby is bored with her surroundings and turned off by the activities offered there until she inadvertently stumbles upon an all-night party held by the hotel’s staff and led by dance instructor Johnny Castle.
Fascinated and turned on by the rock ’n’ roll dance moves that were considered lewd by the standards of the time, Baby wants in on the action. She is eager to learn those “dirty” moves, and Johnny is only too happy to teach them to her. Hands-on, literally.
As those who have seen the movie know, a romance blossoms from the intimate contact between the pair.
However, the relationship is complicated by Baby’s underage status and the hotel’s policy that its employees not get too personal with its guests.
The final scene, with the Medley/Warnes song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” playing prominently over the festive action is what the majority of viewers remember most about the movie.
The song was written specifically for the soundtrack by Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz.
The musical version closely parallels the film, complete with many of the songs that were in the movie.
Theatergoers will hear such R&B classics as “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” “This Magic Moment,” “Cry to Me,” “Love is Strange,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and about two dozen others.
The touring cast in New Orleans includes Jillian Mueller as Baby, Samuel Pergande as Johnny, and Caralyn Kozlowski and Mark Elliot Wilson as Marjorie and Dr. Jake Houseman, Baby’s parents. Also in the cast are Emily Rice as Baby’s older sister, Lisa; Gary Lynch and Jesse Liebman as the Kellerman brothers; and Jenny Winton.
James Powell directs the production from original choreography by Kate Champion (no relation to Gower and Marge). Michele Lynch choreographs the current production.
The production runs for two hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.