For Dirty Dancing’s Jillian Mueller There’s No Place Like the Stage for the Holidays

Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta Presents Dirty Dancing

Jillian Mueller (Baby) and Samuel Pergande (Johnny). Photo by Matthew Murphy

There’s no place like home for holidays. But what do you do if your job has you on the road away from family? Being away from home on tour can be hard enough, but being away from home on a holiday is even harder.

For Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage’s Jillian Mueller, who stars as Baby, this Thanksgiving will consist of performing the new musical to an Atlanta audience. A veteran of touring, having been in the First National Tours of Flashdance, American Idiot, and Memphis prior to Dirty Dancing, Mueller has adapted well to the touring lifestyle, which she has come to enjoy.

Having received her first role on an national tour right out of high school, Mueller looks at the situation through a unique lens. “I’ve been on the road for about three years,” she states. “I look at it like my college years.”

But, even for veteran actors being away from family during the holidays can be difficult. While Mueller has performed on a holiday before, this Thanksgiving marks the first time that she has been away from her family on a holiday.

“I’ve lucked out that I haven’t had to be away,” she says. “I opened the national tour for Flashdance on Christmas, but my family came to D.C.”

Dirty Dancing at the Fox Theatre

Jillian Mueller (Baby) and Samuel Pergande (Johnny). Photo by Matthew Murphy

While she isn’t looking forward to spending the holiday away from home, she is looking forward to being able to celebrate the holiday with her Dirty Dancing road family. The producers are sponsoring a catered meal for the company.

“We are all in the same boat,” she comments. “We are having dinner together – a big company meal.”

While celebrating with her road family will make the holiday easier, the fact that Mueller looks forward to playing Baby in the musical each night makes the road more appealing.

“It’s really cool to be a part of a show where the audience is rooting for you 100% of the time,” Mueller states.

Based on the hit movie, the musical takes place in 1963 and follows the story of Baby, who is vacationing in the Catskills with her family. When she discovers the dance parties of the staff and begins to fall for dance instructor Johnny, her life begins to change as she eventually becomes Johnny’s dance partner on the stage and his lover off of it.

The musical, which started in Australia with much success in 2004, took London’s West End by storm, breaking box office records when it opened in 2006. It has also taken the stage in Toronto, Hamburg and Cape Town. Now, the show is embarking on a National Tour of the U.S.

However, don’t expect this production to be a typical musical. “It is more a movie put on stage,” Mueller comments. “Johnny and Baby don’t break out into song. It is a play with a soundtrack.”

And that soundtrack includes all of the songs that audiences has fallen in love with over the years, including “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” “Hungry Eyes,” and “She Likes the Wind.” Instead of having the main characters sing, there are performers who sing most of the songs.

Jillian Mueller (Baby) and Doug Carpenter (Billy). Photo by Matthew Murphy

Jillian Mueller (Baby) and Doug Carpenter (Billy). Photo by Matthew Murphy

Even if the characters don’t sing, the show does include a lot of dancing. “There’s a lot more dancing in the show than the movie,” Mueller states. While the choreography is different, the iconic dances of the movie are still there but with a new spin. “It is pretty much similar,” she comments. “But, there are different styles involved.”

Despite the changes, nostalgia and memories of the movie keep people coming to the show. “This is a very specific audience,” she says. “There are a lot of fans from the movie.”

It is that nostalgia that she loves about the show and the audiences that it brings. Why? She likes the energy that a “rowdy” crowd brings. She comments that the “rowdier the crowd the better.” What makes a rowdy crowd for her? An energetic one where “people sing along and say the lines before” she does.

It is that energy that makes performing on the road appealing and performing on Thanksgiving just another day at work for Mueller.

So this Thanksgiving, whether you are fan of the classic love story or even practiced the iconic lift in a pool, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage offers the chance to make the holiday even more memorable. Mueller says it best: It is everything you wanted from the movie and more. It’s a live show that makes you part of it. You will have the time of your life – nothing short of a good time.”

Part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta series, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage plays through November 30, 2014 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, online or by phone at 855-285-8499. For more information about the show or the season, please visit

By: Kenny Norton