Baby, She's From Hamilton
August 08, 2008
The Canadian Press
Nobody puts a Hamiltonian in the corner. Steel city's Ashley Leggat will take the lead role as Frances (Baby) Houseman in the Toronto musical Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage.
The 21-year-old who stars on the TV comedy series Life With Derek will replace Monica West, of New York City, whose one-year contract expired. "Dirty Dancing is one of my favourite movies in the world, and this is a chance to go out and dance again," she said. Leggat gave up dancing three years ago to pursue acting. "As soon as I started learning the dance moves, I got goosebumps and thought this is what I want to do and where I want to be."
Mirvish Productions announced yesterday that the one-year contracts are up for the original cast at the city's Royal Alexandra Theatre and some performers -- including those in two lead roles -- are moving on to new projects.
Milwaukee-born ballerina Britta Lazenga, who played the role of troubled dance instructor Penny, is also leaving. Reports say she's taking on the same role in the U.S. premiere of Dirty Dancing in Chicago in September. Her replacement is Julie Hay, a Toronto-born second soloist with the National Ballet of Canada, who will give her first performance as Penny on Aug. 19, the National Ballet said Thursday.
"I am delighted Julie has been offered this exciting opportunity," said Karen Kain, the National Ballet's artistic director. Another major change announced for the Toronto production is the lead role of Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze in the 1987 big-screen romance that the stage production is based on.
Mirvish said Jack Simons, who has been playing the brawny dance instructor for every show, will continue in the Toronto production, but will now do four shows a week.
Sharing the role will be Johnny Wright, "considered one of Canada's finest ballet dancers when he was a first soloist with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet," said Mirvish.