Nobody puts Baby in the corner.
Except “Dirty Dancing” creator Eleanor Bergstein, who for decades resisted entreaties to bring the beloved 1987 movie to the stage.
But not anymore, as local audiences will see Tuesday, when “Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story Onstage” checks into The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall for an eight-performance run.
“Dirty Dancing’s” current U.S. tour began last July and will be on the road for at least another year.
But productions in Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa and elsewhere have been running for more than a decade. All told, there are seven “Dirty Dancing” stage productions on the road.
But not on Broadway — yet.
“It will be, eventually,” says Bergstein, who wrote “Dirty Dancing’s” screenplay — and received the first invitation to adapt it to the stage “in the first 20 minutes” after the movie became an unexpected hit.
“For about 25 years, I said no,” Bergstein notes during a telephone interview from her New York base. “I thought the movie stood on its own.”
She also thought those who loved the movie — which, set in the summer of ’63, recounts the romance of privileged doctor’s daughter Frances “Baby” Houseman and hunky, wrong-side-of-the-tracks dance instructor Johnny Castle at a Catskills resort — shouldn’t have to pay to see it again onstage.
But “much later, after people saw it over and over again,” their continuing affection for “Dirty Dancing” got Bergstein thinking that, perhaps, a theatrical version might be a good idea, enabling fans to “be there while it was happening” and “get inside the story.”
But it was her experience watching a post-Sept. 11, 2001, concert featuring Bruce Springsteen that finally convinced her, Bergstein recalls.
“He had cut his hand and his sleeve was covered with blood. He started to play more, and this huge New York audience began to weep,” she says. “And I thought, ‘That’s what I want, to make it an ecstatic experience.’”
Most such experiences occur at live concerts or movies, Bergstein says. But “I think live theater is the best” way to allow audiences to “enter into a world that’s immediate, that’s happening at this moment.”
The easiest path to the stage would have been hiring a composer to write a new score, a notion Bergstein dismisses as “just nuts.”
After all, the music of the era played a major role in the movie, she notes.
“I had written scenes against those songs,” Bergstein explains, citing “the nostalgia of what stayed. There was no way I wanted a new score.”
Instead, the “Dirty Dancing” stage adaptation features the same songs heard in the movie, from such period hits as “Do You Love Me” and “Love Is Strange” to the Oscar-winning “The Time of My Life.”
Additional golden oldies — such as “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” — also turn up in the stage version of “Dirty Dancing.”
But “it’s not a musical — it’s a play with music,” according to Doug Carpenter, an alumnus of both Las Vegas Academy and UNLV, who’s making his national tour debut as Johnny’s cousin Billy Kostecki — and gets to sing “Time of My Life” at every performance. (Another of his big numbers: “In the Still of the Night.”)
There’s “great music splattered throughout,” Carpenter adds in a separate telephone interview, usually “with a band there” or “some (other) reason there would be live music.”
But “the story is really told through dancing,” says Gillian Abbott, a former Cirque du Soleil “Love” dancer who’s also making her national tour debut as Baby.
Abbott (who moved from Canada to join the “Love” ensemble at 17 and left a year later to attend New York’s legendary Juilliard School) considers Baby a “perfect role,” in part because she’s the youngest of three and remembers being the baby of the family.
She also identifies with Baby’s “transition from daddy’s girl to a woman standing her ground,” she says in a separate telephone interview. “I’m lucky I have a lot to draw on.”
Abbott also cites Bergstein’s supportive attitude, recalling how the “Dirty Dancing” creator encouraged her to find her own version of the character “from the inside out,” she says. Bergstein’s “had a lot of Babys,” she adds.
And while Bergstein and Baby share certain attributes, the character’s creator is not the character, Bergstein says.
“It’s not the story of my life,” she says, even though she has dirty-dancing trophies from her Brooklyn youth “that would turn your hands green.”
Bergstein visited the Catskills with her family and was a “15-year-old mambo queen,” she remembers, later working her way through college as a dance instructor.
There’s also her social conscience, which shows up in references to the civil rights movement, illegal abortion, the Catskills’ class hierarchy and other issues.
The social conscience of “Dirty Dancing” remains a priority for Bergstein, who says the stage version makes even more room for topicality than the movie did.
“It seems to me, you can make a documentary and everyone who sees it will agree,” she points out. “But if you put it in a wide-based musical with lots of dancing and pretty clothes,” it will reach a wider audience.
With 22 new scenes in the stage show that weren’t in the movie, there’s room for additional dance numbers — and more interaction, not just among Baby and Johnny (who’s played by Samuel Pergande) but between the daughter and her parents.
“Here, I had the time to make them clearer,” Bergstein explains. “It’s not the movie just slapped on the stage.”
For more stories from Carol Cling go to bestoflasvegas.com. Contact her at email@example.com and follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.