The National Tour of DIRTY DANCING is currently on tour around the United States. It heads to San Diego in January and I was given the opportunity to do a phone interview with Jennlee Shallow who is one of the primary vocalists in the show.
The Playbill Collector (TPC): How did you get your start in theater?
Jennlee Shallow (JS): I’m from Trinidad so it was really by chance. My teacher Rochel Lewis who taught accounting at my college and led choir outside of classes said that I looked and sounded like a very good friend of hers, Broadway star, Heather Headley. Coincidently for the first time THE LION KING came to town seeking new talent for the Broadway hit musical. My teacher insisted that she take me to the audition. I sang “Amazing Grace” as I had no sheet music (never even heard of it at the time). Two weeks later I was on a plane to Hamburg, Germany as a Nala understudy and then shortly after originated the role of Nala in the new Sydney/Melbourne Australian production.
TPC: What is your role in DIRTY DANCING?
JS: I play the character Elizabeth. She’s new and not in the film. The majority of her communication is through song. I sometimes see her as the voice of Baby’s inner thoughts. Meanwhile she has a story of her own. She’s caught in a love triangle between two of the staff-kids at Kellerman’s who are of different races, totally taboo at the time.
TPC: When did the tour start?
JS: It opened in DC in early August.
JS: I’m in love with DC- the Architecture, the free Museums, the metro system vs New York’s and the shopping. Loved shopping in Georgetown!
TPC: What is your favorite moment of the show?
JS: Listening to the screaming audience at the top of the show. I open with my first song “This Magic Moment” and their excitement gives me such joy. Another moment is the iconic finale when Johnny comes back for Baby and says “nobody puts Baby in a corner” the audience goes nuts.
TPC: What should people expect coming to the show?
JS: It’s exactly like the film with a few new elements- old fans won’t be disappointed and the new comers will have the time of their lives.
TPC: Tell us about the dancing.
JS: There is latin, ballroom and lots of grinding…one of the things that made the film famous, the dirty dancing so there’s lots of that!
TPC: If you could be in any show, what would you choose?
JS: My dream role was to play Sarah in RAGTIME and that came true in the revival production at The Kennedy Center directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge. My next dream would be to play Aida in AIDA.
TPC: Anything else you want to add?
JS: It’s funny that I ended up in the musical theater world with no prior training. There was never really any outlet or facility for that where I’m from. I just grew up in church singing. But one of my biggest dreams is to be a recording artist…to be offered a recording contract. I grew up to idols such as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Yolanda Adams. So I choose to remain hopeful that it will come true someday!
For more information about Jennlee, check out her website: http://www.