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Dirty Dancing

Aaron Patrick Craven and Kaleigh Courts portray star-crossed lovers Johnny and Baby in “Dirty Dancing,” a musical based on the iconic 1987 film that will be on stage at Hershey Theatre March 23-25.

courtesy of 'Dirty Dancing on Tour'

Baby gets out of the corner again to have the time of her life in a touring musical based on the classic film “Dirty Dancing,” which will visit Hershey Theatre for three days later this month.

The show was developed and written by Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the screenplay for the 1987 movie starring Jennifer Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman and the late Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle. The two meet at a summer resort in the Catskills in 1963, where she’s a bored guest and he’s the resort’s rough-edged dancing instructor.

The sparks between them and their sexy dancing helped make the film a surprise box office hit, one that has remained popular for more than 20 years, generating home videos, sequels, albums and hit songs.

Bergstein said she’s tried to re-energize the story by adding new scenes and songs to the stage production. Most of all, she said, she wanted to make the audience feel more physically involved, so Hershey audiences should expect the action to spill out into the aisles at times.

The touring production features a cast of fresh faces, including Aaron Patrick Craven as Johnny and Kaleigh Courts as Baby. Despite some tinkering, the stage show sticks pretty closely to the original movie, including the climactic thrill when Baby, Johnny and the whole cast cut loose on the Academy Award-winning song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

Comic mystery

Over at the Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg, a love triangle turns deadly in “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s,” a comic mystery from 1979 by veteran American playwrights Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark.

The three-scene show was a bit of a dud on Broadway, closing after only 14 performances in 1979. But this often funny play with a dark heart has gained new life through regional theater.

“Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” is set in two rooms of a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, where dentist Mitchell, who fancies himself a heroic type, and femme fatale wannabe Arlene hatch a plot to kill her husband, an unsuccessful used car salesman named Paul. But as betrayals and other troubles unfold, each of the three become the potential victim of the other two.

The production opens Friday and continues through March 25 at LTM, a community theater housed in a former one-room schoolhouse.

Modern re-telling

Finding love in 21st century New York is explored in Theatre Harrisburg’s “I Love You Because,” a musical comedy adapted from Jane Austen’s 19th century romance novel “Pride and Prejudice.”

Just goes to show that when it comes to affairs of the heart, some things never change.

But what has changed is the way we go about finding love, which now often involves “encounters” via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Tinder. In “I Love You Because,” lyricist Ryan Cunningham and composer Joshua Salzman examine the modern world of dating as eccentric characters fall in and out of love with alarming frequency.

Theatre Harrisburg’s production, which continues through March 18 at the community theater’s uptown Krevsky Center, features TJ Creedon, Joshua Schwartz, Lexi Fazzolari, Kayla Kasper, Tyler Chick and Carly Lafferty. The director is Caitlin Graci, with musical direction by Mitchell Sensenig.

Coming back

Totem Pole Playhouse producer Rowan Joseph was saddened by the need to move a long-running winter production of “A Christmas Carol” from downtown Chambersburg to Gettysburg’s Majestic Theatre a couple of years ago.

Now, as promised, Joseph is coming back to Capitol Theatre with a familiar partner, Chambersburg Community Theatre, and a different show, this one an Easter time production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1970 rock musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“It’s always important to me that the community knows when I say something, I do everything I can to honor my words,” Joseph said.

“Superstar,” produced by Joseph’s Theatre A Go-Go production company in association with CCT, will be staged at the Capitol on March 23-25. Proceeds benefit Totem Pole, a 68-year-old professional summer stock theater in Caledonia State Park.

The young cast is mainly drawn from local actors, with a few professionals from New York City taking the key roles of Jesus (Owen Beans), Judas (Pepe Nufrio) and Mary Magdalene (Isabel Nesti).

Joseph said he’s opting for a no-frills production, skipping the ‘70s motif that can make a show set in ancient Jerusalem feel anachronistic. Most actors will simply wear the same clothes they wear in ordinary life, rather than robes and sandals.

“Our production will simply be telling what has always been regarded as ‘the greatest story ever told’ with the lyrics of Tim Rice, the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber and the story of the original Gospel writers,” he said. “The story has held up pretty well for over 2,000 years, and who am I to mess with that?”

Will “Superstar” became an annual tradition in Chambersburg like “Christmas Carol” was for many years? Joseph said he doesn’t yet know about that.

“Honestly, I am not sure if this will become an annual event, as I had originally envisioned,” he said. “For now (we) are taking it one step at a time, so I would strongly recommend folks not miss this chance to see the production.”


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