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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 03
Samuel Pergande is having the time of his life: As Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing
Arts & Entertainment
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Samuel Pergande is having the time of his life: As Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

DIRTY DANCING, THE MUSICAL
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
January 20 - February 1


Samuel Pergande is the perfect person to take over Patrick Swayze's shoes. Both men have a history of studying ballet, both have performed on Broadway and both have starred in Dirty Dancing. The late Patrick Swayze starred as Johnny Castle in the film, now a part of American iconic cinema, and Samuel Pergande is currently touring with the musical stage adaptation of the film. The Seattle Gay News caught up with Mr. Pergande as the touring troupe prepares to dance its way to the Emerald City.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Samuel Pergande: Actually, it was my twin sister that was my first and foremost influence. I used to sing in an opera company from the ages of 8-15, losing my voice through puberty. I switched to dancing. I got roped into dance with 'The Nutcracker,' and found myself in a ballet class with my sister. Soon I had a dancing career. Being young and a guy made it a challenge, but I remember seeing 'White Nights' - with Baryshnikov - and that was a huge influence on me. Dirty Dancing was as well; both of them shed light on making it cool for guys to dance. Patrick Swayze was this masculine kind of guy, and he made it all right for guys to dance.

Andrews-Katz: What was the show that gave you the 'theater bug?'

Pergande: When I was a kid I remember holding on to the cord of the vacuum cleaner, and singing. My sister was the sidekick for me, so my life was always theatrical. My first professional gig was when I was 8 years old, in Milwaukee at the Florentine Opera House. Theater has always been my world.

Andrews-Katz: You have classical ballet training. How does dancing for a musical differ from ballet dancing in your opinion?

Pergande: I don't think it differs that much. With a performance, especially with a heavy dance show like Dirty Dancing, you are pushing yourself and pushing your body. The training is slightly different but dance is dance, and both are equally enjoyable as well.

Andrews-Katz: What is it like flying in Cirque du Soleil's show La Nouba?

Pergande: That's funny because I never did ballet in theater, nor pictured myself in a company like Cirque de Soleil. I have to say the experience is extremely humbling because those artists are incredible. The work ethic and the company itself are so artistic and precise with the quality of the show. To be a part of it was magnificent. Given the opportunity, I'd work with them again in a heartbeat!

Andrews-Katz: When you first heard that Dirty Dancing was being written for the stage, what was your initial reaction?

Pergande: Initially, I found out about it because they were looking for male ballet dancers to play the part of Johnny Castle. I heard of it years ago and eventually did the show in London's West End. That led to the U.S. tour. When I first heard about the show, I was quite excited about it. It's hard to find those roles for a ballet dancer to make the transition into musical theater. It was the perfect opportunity to take on a role like this. And the timing was perfect because I was finished with the latest ballet performance, and I was ready to move on. Having some time off between helped me transition back into the theater world.

Andrews-Katz: What was your audition for Dirty Dancing like?

Pergande: It was quick the first time. I sent in a DVD [for specific roles producers will ask to see a DVD for time and convenience] with a few scenes, and they brought me to New York. There it was a full day of scene work and lots of dancing with multiple partners. We had to improv within the character so they could see we had a fuller understanding of the characters and where they were coming from.

Andrews-Katz: The movie has a soundtrack where the characters aren't singing on stage. How does that translate from the screen to the stage?

Pergande: What they've done is to take the classic story and put it on stage. The show follows the screenplay pretty much to a 'T,' with a few added scenes adding for transition and character depth. They have a few characters within the show, like 'Billy' Johnny Castle's cousin, and a few of the 'staff' kids, that will do primarily all the singing. I often get asked if it is a musical and I answer that it is a play with music. When a movie has such a huge fan base, like this one does, you need to stay true and they are truly getting the film on stage. Here the fans leave ecstatic.

Andrews-Katz: The movie soundtrack has become a 'classic' recording. Has the playlist changed any for the stage production?

Pergande: Not so much cut songs. There are a lot of background tracks that have been added to the front surface. Primarily, it's the same soundtrack from the movie. The movie soundtrack is still one of the top five movie soundtracks of all time!

Andrews-Katz: Is there a moral to Dirty Dancing or is it pure escapism?

Pergande: No, I think there is a moral. It's definitely a story based on class; Johnny is from a lower class and Baby is from a high one. It's the classic story of two opposite worlds teaching one another about how to appreciate one another. That's where the love story comes into place; finding love where you never thought you'd find it.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of limitations such as gender or race - what would it be and why?

Pergande: That's easy for me, this role! This role brings me back to my childhood memories. Things like my sister and I in the backyard pool, making me do lifts over and over again. Patrick Swayze was such a cool guy to make it all right for guys to dance. He opened a lot of doors for shows like 'Dancing with the Stars,' and this movie helped to introduce them to our society. This is a great role to do!

Dirty Dancing; the Musical is based on the film by the same name. After going through several workshops, the musical toured throughout the UK making its London West End debut in 2014.

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Samuel Pergande is having the time of his life: As Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing
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