Having the time of your life: Dirty Dancing on stage at Ipswich Regent
- Credit: Alastair Muir
Dirty Dancing remains one of the defining movies of the 1980s. Now it has moved from the big screen to on stage. We look at its continued appeal.
Dirty Dancing is a movie classic. For its legions of fans it’s not only a defining moment in contemporary cinema but often forms an important landmark in their own lives. Stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey became icons, forever wedded to their roles in the film, frozen-in-time, preserved by the timeless popularity of the film.
Given the film’s on-going popularity, it was only a matter of time before the film was turned into a highly successful stage show. It’s the perfect coming-of-age story. The script for the film was based on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein’s own childhood. It originally started out as a screenplay for the Michael Douglas film It’s My Turn, but ultimately she ended up conceiving a story for a film which became Dirty Dancing.
The story revolves around a classic summer romance. It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing.
On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, she shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles across an all-night dance party at the staff quarters. Mesmerised by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle, the resort dance instructor.
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Her life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off, and two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives.
The film was a close cousin of the Brat Pack movies with both Grey and Swayze appearing in a couple of John Hughes youth masterpieces but for some reason Dirty Dancing was never considered to be a genuine Brat Pack film – probably because the attention of the audience and the focus of the story was so targeted in on Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey themselves. This wasn’t an ensemble piece this was a hot romance.
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For any actors taking on the roles for the stage version, then they are going to have to fill some pretty big shoes.
Michael O’Reilly stars as Johnny Castle, the role made famous by Patrick Swayze. O’Reilly is making his professional debut in the show after graduating in dance and musical theatre from Bird College, and is keen to make Johnny’s iconic shades and leather jacket his own.
Kira Malou stars as idealistic Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman. Kira has played the role of ‘Baby’ regularly during the 2016-17 UK tour, as well as being a member of the ensemble.
The stage show has also been written by Eleanor Bergstein and includes much of the original dialogue from the film, as well as extra scenes which develop the characters still further. The songs from the iconic soundtrack are also present including Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, Do You Love Me? and the heart stopping (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.
Speaking before the tour arrives at the Ipswich Regent Michael said that the show was the ideal vehicle for bringing a little cheer into our lives which are currently being weighed down by politics and disagreement. “We’re here to give people a good time.”
So was he nervous about following Patrick Swayze in such an iconic role? “Well, Patrick Swayze is a bit of a legend but once you get over the fact you are playing Johnny Castle you have to just concentrate on doing the show.
“It’s such a great show to do and you get such a great response from the audience that each performance takes on a life of its own. The thing you don’t do is try and impersonate Patrick Swayze. You doing the part an injustice if you are trying to copy him. What you have to do is put your stamp on the role. Look at how the part is written, what the character is like and find you own version of the part. Your own take on Johnny Castle.”
Dirty Dancing is at the Ipswich Regent from April 8-13. Tickets can be booked online at https://apps.ipswich.gov.uk/