WIN + INTERVIEW: Dirty Dancing, Sunderland Empire

GIRLS' NIGHT ... Dirty Dancing is at the Sunderland Empire.
GIRLS' NIGHT ... Dirty Dancing is at the Sunderland Empire.
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DIRTY Dancing promises to give theatre-goers the time of their lives as it heads back to Sunderland Empire. Katy Wheeler speaks to the man who’s getting pulses racing as Johnny Castle.

Of all the shows to hit the Sunderland Empire, Dirty Dancing has proved to be the biggest hit with Wearside audiences.

This week it returns with its winning formula.

Stepping in to the shiny dance shoes of heartthrob Johnny Castle is Gareth Bailey, a role he’s been eager to make his own for some time.

“I played Robbie in the first UK tour in 2011. I chased the role of Johnny for a whole year and was then offered the role on the international

tour. It’s great to be playing him now on the UK tour,” he explained.

Based on the phenomenally successful 1987 film of the same name, the musical brings to life the classic story of Baby and Johnny, two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds, who come together for the summer of their lives.

It opened at the Aldwych Theatre in London in 2006 with a record-breaking advance of £15 million, making it the fastest ever selling show in West End theatre history

Those who feared their favourite film may have been tinkered with needn’t have worried, the musical features all the same characters and dialogue – with a few extra scenes added in for good measure.

Gareth says: “It is very faithful to the film, and staying true to the movie is key to the musical’s success, but it adds another dimension to it. When you’re in a theatre, with anything from 1,000 to 2,5000 people in it, and you’ve got that live music and live atmosphere, it’s something you just can’t get in the cinema. It brings a whole other aspect to the story.

“They certainly got it right when they transferred the film to stage, it’s been going nearly ten years in the UK, and that’s because it shows you the story happening right in front of you. It’s like listening to your favourite artist on your iPod and then going to see them in concert.

“So many people come back and see it over and over and it’s because, for the die hard fans of the movie, it gives them that whole experience.

“We want people to see the stage show and love it just as much as the film.”

For the stars of the show it’s an intense two hours on stage, sashaying and pounding their way through the story’s famous score, which includes Do You Love Me?, Hungry Eyes and (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

“I enjoy that challenge, that it’s physically demanding,” said Gareth. “It keeps me committed and on top of my game. It means I have to makes sure I sleep enough, and eat right, and train. But it’s all things that can en-able your performance. It’s a hugely demanding show, but it allows us to give a high energy performance.”

Like most dancers, Gareth had seen Dirty Dancing countless times growing up. There’s no escaping it, he says.

“I was totally aware of the film, who hasn’t seen the film? It’s always on TV, especially at Christmas. It’s such a global thing. When I meet new people I introduce myself and when they ask what I do for a living I say ‘oh, I’m a dancer. I dance in a show called Dirty Dancing, which is based on a film with Patrick Swayze.’ But I don’t even have to get that far. Everyone knows what it is.”

He says the original Johnny, Patrick Swayze, has left a lasting legacy with his ability on the dance floor.

“What’s nice about it is that it’s so great to have such a masculine actor, Patrick Swayze, in that role,” he said.

“He showed just how athletic dance is, how masculine it is. And it’s great for young male dancers in the industry to be able to see that.”

Playing Johnny brings with it a legion of admirers and Gareth says it’s all part of the role.

“There’s been a few letters to the stage door and I run a fan page, it’s always nice to get feedback” he said. “Audience participation is all part of it. Time of My Life is a favourite with people, and it’s my favourite too. It’s nice the way the whole production comes together at the end.

“It’s a moment every-one’s been waiting for and it’s great with the live band. Nothing compares to it.”

*Dirty Dancing is at Sunderland Empire from Jan 27 to Feb 14. Tickets are available in person from £10 at the Box Office or from £12.90 when calling 0844 871 3022 or booking online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland, plus a transaction fee applies. Premium seats also available.

•We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets for Dirty Dancing on Thursday, January 29. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: who played Johnny Castle in the hit Dirty Dancing film?

A) Patrick Swayze

B) Patrick Stewart

C) Patrick Vieira

Email your answer with you contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.