Jenny Winton grew up dancing ballet, including time with the San Francisco Ballet and five years with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago when a casting agent trying to fill roles in the stage version of Dirty Dancing gave her a call.
"They were looking at pictures of different ballerinas from companies all over the world and asked me if I would be interested," she says. Following a successful New York audition, Winton took on the character of Penny Johnson, the regular dance partner of Johnny Castle, who becomes pregnant during the course of the show.
Now on its way to the Hobby Center courtesy of Broadway Across America, the musical doesn't differ much from the 1987 hit movie by the same name starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, Winton says.
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The difference, she says, is that with live music - "Do You Love Me," "Hungry Eyes" and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - and dancing, the experience becomes much more intimate for the audience.
Used to what she called the more "reserved" audiences at ballet performances, Winton was surprised when the touring show opened in August. "I was very taken aback my first couple shows doing this because you felt like you were a rock star. Their responses are just so amazing. The cast members put on the best show they can because they're so motivated by the audience."
Just 25-years-old, Winton says she's really enjoyed playing Penny Johnson. "She's almost like a working class princess. She's very regal in the sense that she has values. She has a very strong personality. She's worked for everything in her life. She's no nonsense; she's not going to put up with people who are disrespectful. But she also has a very sensitive side to her too. She has a lot of layers. She has a very kind heart. She cares deeply about people in her life. She's a pretty golden character."
Dirty Dancing runs November 18 through November 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit houston.broadway.com. $30 to $110.