By Richard Schultz – Feb. 12, 2015 (Photos by Matthew Murphy.)
For his first national tour, Joshua Keith couldn’t be any happier to be a part of the talented company of the stage version of Dirty Dancing – which makes a stop at ASU Gammage Feb.17-22.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage is an unprecedented live experience, exploding with heart-pounding music, passionate romance and sensational dancing. Seen by millions across the globe, this timeless love story features the hit songs “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.”
It’s the summer of 1963, and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman is on vacation in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents. Mesmerized by the racy dance moves and pounding rhythms she discovers in the resort’s staff quarters, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle, the resort’s sexy dance instructor. Passions ignite and Baby’s life changes forever when she is thrown in to the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady, both on stage and off.
This tour features a book written by Eleanor Bergstein, who penned the screenplay for the iconic film, and is directed by James Powell with choreography by Michele Lynch that is based on the original choreography by Kate Champion.
Keith, who is a member of the ensemble and the understudy for Tito, is a gifted dancer who credits his success to his persistence and commitment to ongoing training. He was born and raised in Winston-Salem, N.C. and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he earned Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre with a concentration in dance.
He moved to New York City four years ago to take classes where he developed his performance technique and has appeared in A Christmas Carol, In The Heights, All Shook Up, A Chorus Line, and Debbie Allen’s Oman! Oman! at the Kennedy Center.
Echo recently chatted with Keith while on the road in Seattle.
Echo: Tell us about the auditions for the tour.
Keith: I auditioned in February after I saw a listing for an open call in New York. Initially, I learned the choreography to the song “Stay.” The show is all partner dancing, but during the audition I was able to show who I was individually as a dancer. There were more callbacks and two and half weeks of learning the dance. It was grueling. I was finally offered the show in March and was thrilled to be part of this talented cast.
Echo: Were you a fan of the film?
Keith: Definitely. The movie and stage versions are very similar. If you saw the movie, you will like the stage show. Basically, what’s in the film is now onstage with all your favorite lines and moments. That famous walk at the end of film is there, too.
Echo: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
Keith: I have lots of favorite moments. What really stands out is the end of Act One: It’s a very sensual moment between Johnny and Baby with very subtle, but sexually charged choreography. Of course, the finale with the song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” is terrific.
Echo: How’s life on road?
Keith: We started rehearsing for four weeks in July and opened in Washington, D.C. at the National Theatre. I’ll be with the tour a year, although the run of the tour is open-ended at this time. It’s been great because we have been playing to sold-out houses where the audiences are so enthusiastic about the show. The audience knows the movie so well and is having a great time reliving it.
Echo: What do you miss by being on the road?
Keith: I miss being in New York and taking dance classes. It’s hard to find studios on the road. I also miss just being home and just doing the simple thing like cooking a meal. Yet, there are so many opportunities on the road especially visiting warm climates in the middle of winter. I do get to see new places and catch up with friends who now live in other cities. That gives me a chance to renew friendships and make new ones.
Echo: What would you like for the future?
Keith: I’m inspired by more traditional musicals. Of course, I want to perform on Broadway and I’ll get there. I follow the work of modern choreographers and would like to choreograph someday as well.
Echo: What’s your advice to Arizona audiences?
Keith: Definitely come and see the show; it’s just so much fun. Audiences sing along to all the hits. Best of all, it takes you back to your youth and that first love.
Keith invites feedback and reactions via social media and encourages audiences to reach out to him, especially after they see the show, at Joshua Keith on Facebook and @JoshuaKeith1 on Instragram.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage
1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe
Tickets: $20-$140; 480-965-3434