Jonathan Vickers talks to Jill Winternitz and Paul-Michael Jones, the stars of Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre, London.
It’s time to have the time of your life all over again as Dirty Dancing returns to London’s West End after a hugely successful national tour.
Continuing from the tour in the demanding role of 17-year-old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is American-born actress Jill Winternitz. Playing an iconic role in such a well-known piece can be difficult, but Winternitz takes it in her stride:
“I hadn’t actually seen the film before I got the audition, so when I was called in I had no idea about what I was stepping into; I found that very freeing as I didn’t have that weight of expectation on my shoulders.”
Having previously played parts such as Ophelia in Hamlet and Nina in The Seagull, Baby Houseman presents a whole set of new challenges for the RADA-trained actress.
“This one is hugely different to my previous roles because of the dance aspect,” she explains. “Despite this, I like to think that at the heart of it I approach the work in the same way.”
Playing opposite her in the equally beloved role of dance instructor Johnny Castle is former Ballroom world championship competitor Paul-Michael Jones. The Laine Theatre Arts-trained actor played roles in Mamma Mia!, Never Forget and We Will Rock You, amongst others, before taking on the role of Johnny in the national tour in 2011. Of the show’s transfer back into the West End, Manchester-born Jones says: “It’s so exciting to see the show come back to London, and for me it’s incredible to have landed a role like Johnny (on the tour) and then to get the chance to play it in the West End.”
And what can audiences expect from this production?
“It’s the chance for audiences to relive the film, but with added elements such as new choreography and our fantastic live band,” Jones tells me. “The set is completely different to how it was the last time the show was in town: it’s absolutely incredible and gives it a real movie-feel. The show really is in the best shape it has ever been in.”
The London company will also include Charlotte Gooch (Penny Johnson), Colin Charles (Tito Suarez), James Coombes (Dr Jake Houseman), Mark Faith (Mr Schumacher), Stefan Menaul (Neil Kellerman), Julia J Nagle (Marjorie Houseman’), Michael Remick (‘Max Kellerman’), Wayne Smith (‘Billy Kostecki’) and Emilia Williams (‘Lisa Houseman’) plus an ensemble cast comprising of Jonathan Cordin, Gemma Fuller, Rebecca Hodge, Faisal Khodabukus, Callum Nicol, Rosa O’Reilly, Adam Philpott, Kate-Emma Portlock, Stephanie Powell, Joseph Prouse, Aaron Richardson, Claire Rogers, Russell Smith, Lizzie Stavrou, Will Tyler and Tara Verloop.
If history tells us anything, it’s that Dirty Dancing is a popular choice with the British theatre-going public. It opened at the Aldwych Theatre in 2006 with a record-breaking advance of £15 million – the fastest ever selling show in West End theatre history. The production became the longest-running show in the history of the Aldwych Theatre and played to more than two million people during its incredibly successful five-year run. The first ever national tour also broke records all around the country and a new UK tour will launch in March 2014.
See Musical Theatre Review’s of Dirty Dancing