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story.lead_photo.caption Aaron Patrick Craven (left) and Kaleigh Courts have the time of their lives in Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage, appearing at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Performance Hall on Saturday and Sunday.

The movie Dirty Dancing celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. (Does anyone else feel old?)

Aaron Patrick Craven, the dancer-actor-singer who plays Johnny Castle -- the Patrick Swayze role -- in Dirty Dancing -- The Classic Story On Stage, coming to Robinson Center Performance Hall on Saturday and Sunday, is only 25.

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage

3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway, Little Rock

Tickets: $28-$77 plus fees

(501) 244-8800

ticketmaster.com

So in 1987, Craven wasn't even alive, let alone mesmerized by the dreamy, dancy film -- the one that had so many of us wearing Baby-esque high-waisted jorts to repeat viewings and memorizing all the lines ("I ... carried ... a... watermelon?!" and "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!")

But his mother was. (Does anyone else feel really old?)

"My mom loved this movie," says Craven, a Kansas native, in a phone interview. But he didn't discover it until he was studying for his dance degree at Wichita State University. "My mom was like, "What are you talking about? You haven't seen Dirty Dancing?' ... That's when I found it and really had an appreciation for it."

Craven and Kaleigh Courts (Baby) lead a company of 24 in this touring production directed by Sarna Lapine. The book was written by Eleanor Bergstein, author of the original film script, so it's still the same coming-of-age story of 17-year-old sheltered Frances "Baby" Houseman. While vacationing with her family in the Catskills in 1963, she becomes the dance partner and eventually romantic partner of macho dance instructor Johnny.

Yes, she's underage. Yes it's totally inappropriate. Yes, a subplot involves an illegal abortion. But just go with it. As Baby says, "Let's cha-cha."

The choreography by Michele Lynch is based on the original stage choreography by Kate Champion. Music from the movie -- like "Hungry Eyes" and "Hey! Baby" -- are performed, as well as additional songs.

Craven says, "In this production, the movie has been transformed into a live theatrical event, so there's going to be more music ... more plot lines. There's going to be more dancing than you've ever seen before.

"Even if you grew up watching the movie, there's still going to be a lot more that the stage version is going to offer you."

Including 20 additional scenes, as well as 36 total musical numbers, performed by an eight-piece band.

"Everyone in the show is a triple-threat -- sings, dances and acts," Craven says. "But we do have a couple lead vocalists that bring some amazing energy to the music we're all familiar with, and then there are a few bonus songs as well. In addition, we've also got nine styles of ballroom dance represented. All the great lines, all the characters, all the lifts, they're all represented, but we've added a bunch to it."

When asked for his favorite number, he gives two. The first, he says, is "Do You Love Me," when the staff kids cut loose in their own environment: "That's a lot of fun, because up until that point it's all been very strictly ballroom, very refined, everything is very structured, but then ... people are just going nuts, so I love that." The second is "(I've Had) The Time of My Life": "It's such an audience-pleaser, I mean, how do you not have an amazing time with that one every night?"

Was it intimidating for him to take on the role that late hunky Swayze made so legendary?

"There's definitely pressure, but it's a positive pressure to execute on a very high level," Craven says. "I don't really put the pressure on myself to be exactly like Swayze. I don't think, as an actor, you can just choose to be someone else, unless you're an impersonator, which I'm not -- I'm an actor. I've seen what Swayze did, and I take that, and I don't intentionally go against it or anything like that. ... It's an iconic performance and I love it, it's just not something I'm interested in touching.

"I'm going to do my version of it."

He sounds so confident. So rebellious.

So Johnny!

Use those spaghetti arms and email:

jchristman@arkansasonline.com

What's in a Dame is a weekly report from the woman 'hood.

Style on 03/13/2018

Print Headline: Johnny to dance Dirty in his style

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