Toronto Will Get New Dirty Dancers Wright, Leggat, and Hay Aug. 19
By Kenneth Jones
07 Aug 2008
The Toronto production of Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage will welcome new performers in the roles of Johnny, Baby and Penny Aug. 19 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
A year ago, the North American premiere production of the London hit, based on the film of the same name, began rehearsing in Toronto. According to the producers, "As is usually the case with large-scale sit-down stage productions, the original cast members were signed to a one-year contract, and some are moving on to new projects." In a unique arrangement, two performers will share the part of dance instructor Johnny Castle, "a physically challenging role with complex and intricate choreography."
Having already performed the part eight times a week for almost a full year, Jake Simons knows first hand the stamina it takes to bring the character to life. Simons will continue in the Toronto production but will now perform four shows a week.
Johnny Wright, a Canadian ballet dancers and first soloist with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, will also play Johnny. Born in Vancouver, BC, Wright's career began with Judith Marcuse Dance Company, followed by Alberta Ballet. He joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 1997 and during his decade with the company danced many principal roles, including Tamino in The Magic Flute, the title role in Dracula, Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet, Captain Hook in Peter Pan, The Champion Roper in Agnes de Mille's Rodeo, and more.
His wife, ballet dancer Sarah Murphy-Dyson, is an ensemble member of the Dirty Dancing cast and worked with him at the RWB.
Playing Frances (Baby) Houseman will be Ashley Leggat. A native of Hamilton ON, Leggat is one of the stars of the popular TV show "Life With Derek," which is shown around the world on the Family and Disney networks. Her television and movie credits include "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," "The Music Man," "A Very Married Christmas," "Roxana" and "Cadet Kelly" as well as recurring roles in "In a Heartbeat" and "I Was a Sixth Grade Alien." Her theatrical credits include The Sound of Music, Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Theatre Aquarius).
Another acclaimed ballet dancer, Julie Hay, will play the role of Penny. A Torontonian, Hay trained in classical ballet at the Quinte Ballet School and upon graduation immediately joined the National Ballet of Canada where she was soon promoted to second soloist. Her work with the company include the principal role Emeralds in George Balanchine's Jewels, as well as the Dark Angel in Balanchine's Serenade and featured roles in his Don Quixote. She has danced the Spanish Princess in Swan Lake, the Principal Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, among others.
Also joining the cast are Storm Newton in the role of Billy, for which he sings the show's signature songs, such as "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" and "In the Still of the Night"; Todd Burnsed (ensemble); Dominique Roy (ensemble); and JD Aubrey Smith (swing). The troupe also includes Al Sapienza as Baby's father, Dr. Jake Houseman; Victoria Adilman as her mother Majorie and Natalie Krill as her sister Lisa. Victor A. Young plays Max Kellerman, namesake of the resort at which the 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, Jeffrey Wetsch as Robbie, Tyler Murree as Stan and Joyce Krenz as Mrs. Schumacher.
The ensemble includes Michelle Black, Lydia Bouchard, 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, Michael Torontow, Jonathan Whittaker and 2005 Canadian Idol winner, Melissa O'Neil.
The Toronto production is staged by the same creative team as the London production, including writer and creator Eleanor Bergstein, director James Powell, choreographer Kate Champion, musical supervisor Conrad Helfrich, set designer Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting designer Tim Mitchell, sound designer Bobby Aitken, video and projection designer Jon Driscoll, costume designer Jennifer Irwin and Latin and ballroom choreographer Craig Wilson.
Tickets for Toronto's Dirty Dancing are available until Nov. 2. A separate Broadway-bound U.S. tour will launch in Chicago in September. Tickets can be purchased by phone through TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333, online at www.mirvish.com.