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‘Dirty Dancing’ brings back the nostalgia, creates new memories

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

Those are the famous words spoken by Johnny Castle in the musical “Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story on Stage.”

During opening night of the musical at Popejoy Hall on Thursday, it was apparent that Baby belonged front and center, with the spotlight directly on her.

Frances “Baby” Houseman, played by Bronwyn Reed captivated the crowd with not only her dancing, but slick comedy skills.

She was the perfect partner to Christopher Tierney, who has been taking on the iconic role of Castle for a few years now.

Tierney has more magnetism on stage than most people could handle and did justice to the iconic role.

Before the production stopped in Albuquerque for its stint, I caught up with Tierney on how he handles the pressure of taking on the iconic role.

He said by watching the film over and over, he feels like he has a firm grip on who Castle is.

“People fell in love with the character, because Johnny, while he’s this tough guy, he is also very sensitive,” Tierney said. “He’s a bit of an open wound. Finding him vulnerable and strong is what intrigued me about Johnny.”

When Reed and Tierney shared the stage, the connection was powerful.

But they weren’t the only highlights. For a show that’s been travelling for years, there’s a flow to it all.

And the ensemble cast is top notch.

From Jennifer Mealani Jones who plays Penny Johnson, the former Rockette who also teaches dance at Kellerman’s to Baby’s sister, Lisa, played by Alyssa Brizzi, who absolutely had some of the best comedic lines.

Let’s not forget to give a nod to the set design, which was simple and changed quickly.

The travelling production isn’t that different from the 1987 film starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.

It is set in 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 into the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady, both on stage and off.

The show began as an eight-week staged workshop in Manhattan in the fall of 2001. It was first performed at the Theatre Royal in Sydney, Australia, in November 2004, before embarking upon a hugely successful tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The production began performances on London’s West End in October 2006 with an $11 million advance and went on to become the longest running show in the history of the Aldwych Theatre.

The North American tour is produced by Amber Jacobsen, NETworks Presentations LLC, Grove Entertainment and Col Joye in association with Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions.

Of course, the musical features a large cast, with an eight-piece band performing the hit songs “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.”

In an instant, I was transported back to my childhood where this film became a part of my life.

The production runs for five more shows through June 18.

Come for the spectacular love story, classic songs and the iconic dances  — ahem, the lift.

All the while, making new memories with this fantastic musical.

If you go
WHAT: “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, June 16; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17; 1 and 6:30 p.m. June 18
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico campus
HOW MUCH: $40-$95, plus fees at, UNM Bookstore ticket office, UNM ticket office at The Pit, by phone at 925-5858 or 877-664-8661 or at various Albertsons locations

Bronwyn Reed and Christopher Tierney in “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage.” (Courtesy of Matthew Murphy)