ShareThis Page
Theater

The time of your life: 8 things to know about 'Dirty Dancing'

| Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and Jennifer Mealani Jones (Penny) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and Jennifer Mealani Jones (Penny) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and Bronwyn Reed (Baby) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Christopher Tierney (Johnny) and Bronwyn Reed (Baby) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Jennifer Mealani Jones (Penny), Bronwyn Reed (Baby) and Christopher Tierney (Johnny) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy
Jennifer Mealani Jones (Penny), Bronwyn Reed (Baby) and Christopher Tierney (Johnny) in the North American tour of DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. (Photo by Matthew Murphy
Bronwyn Reed (Baby) and Christopher Tierney (Johnny) in the North American tour of 'Dirty Dancing.'
Matthew Murphy
Bronwyn Reed (Baby) and Christopher Tierney (Johnny) in the North American tour of 'Dirty Dancing.'

“Dirty Dancing” has grown into a cultural icon. The 1987 film starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze still attracts new generations of fans — despite its 30 years.

A music-filled, dance-filled tour of “Dirty Dancing” stops at Heinz Hall May 23-28. The show has hit seven continents over the past 15 years with 23 productions.

We caught up with screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the stage adaptation, to discuss the “Dirty Dancing” phenomenon she started.

The movie was expected to be a flop: “We actually thought we wouldn't be able to walk out on the street without people laughing at us when the movie came out,” Bergstein says. “It isn't that we thought it will maybe be a medium success, or a big success. Oh no, we expected it to be a total humiliation and disgrace.”

Despite the low expectations, “Dirty Dancing” earned critical acclaim: Both Grey and Swayze were nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes as best actor and actress. The movie won Oscars for best music and best original song, as well as a Golden Globe for best original song for “(I've Had) The Time of My Life.”

The story was inspired by the screenwriter's life: “Rather than based on my life, there are a lot of elements I knew from my life,” Bergstein says. “For example, I went to the Catskills with my parents when I was a little girl. I was a teenage mambo queen. I came from a very working class neighborhood and the dirty dancing steps were things we did in basement parties. On the other hand, I worked my way through college as an Arthur Murray teacher, so there's as much Johnny in me as Baby. Maybe a little more.”

“Dirty Dancing” is not a musical: “It's a play with music. I didn't want a traditional musical the way people sing to each other. I didn't want Johnny suddenly singing to Baby. It would be ridiculous. What I wanted was the sense that all this music was the soundtrack of people's hearts.”

The show is 30 minutes longer than the movie: Bergstein added 20 new scenes and 36 numbers of live music played by an eight-piece band on stage. She enjoyed writing the additional material, which clarifies the storyline. “Who just wants to slap a movie on stage?”

The political side of the 1963 storyline has had a lasting effect: “Over the last few years, people are asking more about the politics than if Johnny loved Baby. People started asking about the coat hanger abortion, about Vietnam, the race relations between social classes — and yes, that's why I did it but I never expected anybody to recognize it. This huge generation of young women have realized how their attitudes was shaped by this movie.”

Nobody puts Baby in a corner”: The line is so iconic, you can find it on onesies and bibs. Other quotes that will put you into movie scenes:

“God wouldn't have given you maracas if He didn't want you to shake 'em.”

“Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine.”

“Go back to your playpen, Baby.”

“You just put your pickle on the plates, college boy, and leave the hard stuff to me.”

“Last month, I'm eating Jujubes to keep alive, this month women are stuffing diamonds in my pockets.”

It's not over yet: The original “Dirty Dancing” inspired a 1998 TV series, the 2004 film “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” and a 2006-07 reality TV show called “Dirty Dancing.” The latest homage to Baby and Johnny is a TV movie airing May 24 on ABC, starring Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes.

Sally Quinn is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me