Kaleigh Courts remembers seeing "Cats" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" as a young girl growing up in Houston. She thoroughly enjoyed them, but they weren't quite her cup of tea, or so she thought.
"I watched them, I loved them and other classic musicals as well, but I never really saw myself as doing that sort of thing," said Courts, a ballet dancer turned musical theater actress in the national touring production of "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage," coming to Proctors for three shows Friday and Saturday. "Most of my life I primarily focused on dance, and I had three wonderful years with the Houston Ballet. But then I just kind of figured I was ready for the next thing."
Courts left Houston in August of 2017 and headed to New York City. A month later, she had won the role of Baby in the current touring production of "Dirty Dancing," which opened in October.
"A friend of mine mentioned some auditions on Broadway and I thought to myself, 'Gosh, I could totally do this,'" said Courts. "So I moved to New York, took some vocal lessons, started showing up at auditions and in pretty much a month I got this job."
"Dirty Dancing" is a 1987 film starring Patrick Swayze as dance instructor Johnny Castle and Jennifer Gray as Baby Houseman, a 17-year-old girl on vacation with her family at a resort in the Catskills. A low-budget film that also starred Jerry Orbach and Cynthia Rhodes as Baby's parents, "Dirty Dancing" was a huge commercial success and the first home video to sell more than a million copies.
The film was adapted for the stage in 2004 and has undergone a series of changes since then. Eleanor Bergstein, the original screenwriter, added a few extra scenes and characters, and some of those characters sing the songs from the film's soundtrack, including the monster hit, "(I've Had) The Time of my Life."
"Everything you've seen in the movie will be on the stage, and more," said Courts. "We have vocalists who do most of the singing in the show; they're fantastic, and we have a band that tours with us. All the music is live, and I think that really helps bring life to the story."
Courts is 22 but has that youthful look about her that allows her to play younger.
"I'm not that much older than Baby, so I don't think that's a problem," she said. "I felt right at home with the part. They were having a 30-year anniversary celebration of the movie in Bryant Park in New York City last summer, and they showed it on this huge screen outside. There were like 1,000 people on the lawn watching it. This happened on the day before my audition, so it was really cool to be there, and the next day I went to the audition and got it."
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, the casting of the two leads - Aaron Patrick Craven plays Johnny - "really paid off." The newspaper went on to say that "Courts especially shines portraying the innocence and idealism of Baby, while playing up the character's occasional two left feet."
Purposely looking a bit clumsy onstage was at first difficult for Courts, but she got the hang of it. What has been a struggle is getting used to life on the road.
"I absolutely love what I'm doing, but traveling all the time has been quite an adjustment," she said. "I gotta find the right foods, I gotta do my laundry, stuff like that. But one of my favorite parts is playing in front of a different audience every night. It brings a new energy to the show every night and that is wonderful."
As for the story itself, she says people don't tire of it.
"It's as relevant now as it was 40 years ago," said Courts. "People relate to it and it appeals to everyone, of any age. It brings back memories for people, and I love making that connection every night."
'Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage'
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $90-$20
MORE INFO: (518) 346-6204, or visit www.proctors.org