Dirty Dancing: The Musical Cast Chat Auditions, Pressure, & Nailing *That* Lift

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Dirty Dancing the musical is officially coming to Dublin next month.

Fans of the film will be glad to know that the stage adaptation is chock full of as much sensual Latin dance, complex lifts, and absolute bangers as the movie. And it’s also got an incredible cast at its helm.

Michael O’Reilly (Johnny Castle) says that he hadn’t actually seen the film before auditioning – and that he believes this gave him an edge in securing the part.

“I remember watching it for the first time and being like ‘oh that’s from this!’ and ‘this part is from here!'” he says. “I was blown away because I remember thinking ‘Swayze is so cool’,  but I loved that I didn’t have the pressure or the expectation.

“I worked really hard on the script and I knew I could afford to do my own thing, no one was expecting Swayze to be walking out there. Watching the movie back you really appreciate why people grow up with this story.

“It’s a beautiful show, and it’s such a big part of people’s lives. They watch it for the nostalgia and they share their personal experiences with you, it is fascinating how one movie can such a generational impact on the world.”

Kira Malou (Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman), echoes this sentiment, saying that she didn’t feel the pressure of taking on such an iconic role until the show’s opening night back in 2018.

“I was an understudy for Baby in 2017, and something shifted in me then,” she says. “I saved up and I spent all my money on acting classes. My agent told me not to get my hopes up about this role, so I didn’t have that expectation, I just kind of went with the flow and chilled.

“Then on opening night hearing that first song, it jolted me into thinking ‘this is happening now’. You don’t breathe for two hours. Then you turn around and you see all of your people there and you come back down to earth. It’s amazing doing theatre, you’re just in it. It’s like when you’re a kid and you’re playing make believe, you’re so invested and you really believe you’re there.”

Georgia Aspinall (Penny Johnson) says that this belief is what allowed her to do her character justice. Penny isn’t just a dancer, she also undergoes an intense emotional arc in the story – one that Georgia says can be tough performing night after night.

“It’s not as simple as her just being a dancer, there’s so much more to her,” she says. “You want to do it justice for anyone in the audience who resonates with that character. After scene one she’s at a low point, she’s vulnerable and she’s crying, she’s trying to take back control.

“It can be tough when you’re doing it every night and some days I do have a cry myself, but you can’t keep yourself in that space. Even though it’s genuine, you know it’s not real. You don’t need to drown, you can still stay in control.”

Michael agrees. “Whether it’s an iconic role or not, you’re always in service to the text,” he says. “Even if it’s an emotional scene, you’re not thinking about how much emotion you can get, you’re speaking to that person in front of you, and by speaking to that person you can reach the world.

“The audience sees that then, they think ‘I’ve had that conversation with my dad,’ or ‘I’ve made love with someone for the first time’ that’s what you relate to. The show is about human nature and the human condition.”

Dirty Dancing may be about real issues, but it’s also about, well, that lift.

In the film, Baby and Johnny struggle to achieve the lift for a while, before eventually nailing it during their final performance. In real life, Kira and Michael, amazingly, did it on their first try.

“It was actually pretty easy,” says Michael. “It’s all about balance whoever you do it with, and it’s always a bit scary the first time, but it did work amazingly.

“I really don’t think I could go on stage every night if I was worried it wasn’t going to happen, it’s the only thing so many people have come to see! I have to know it’s 100% and I’m very luck that every time it has been.”

Dirty Dancing is coming to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre from September 5 – 16, 2023. You can find tickets here. 


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