Nine years after its debut in West End, Dirty Dancing the stage musical arrives in Singapore for highly anticipated two-week run. Gwen Pew chats with Byrony Whitfield, who plays the role of Baby, about her preparation, favourite number and that famous lift.
6 May 2013: Although it started off as a low-budget film made in 1987 after the script was repeatedly rejected by various other studios, Dirty Dancing nonetheless went on to become an instant hit around the world. Partly based on the childhood of its writer Eleanor Bergstein (who, like the lead female character, also was called ‘Baby’ in her younger days), the success of the film prompted Bergstein to adapt the story into a stage musical in 2004, which then became the fastest selling show on London’s West End, where it sold out the first six months of its run even before it had opened.
We’ve seen the movie more than once, but we can expect from Dirty Dancing, the musical?
Dirty Dancing is a name that is known internationally. Wherever you go, people know the story, the characters. We are aware that people come to see all the elements they love. I believe the stage production has all the right ingredients. If you loved the movie, you will love the musical. There is also something special about the show being live. It’s an intoxicating energy and everyone responds to all the right moments. The show that we’re bringing to Singapore is the exact show that is currently touring the UK. It is such a slick show, with scene changes happening in front of your eyes and beautiful, sexy dancing.
You play Baby. How long did you have to prepare?
We had four weeks to prepare for the show. It was very intense, but I always love the rehearsal process. It’s where you get to explore your character and grow into the show.
Do you have a favourite line in the show?
My favourite line that I say is ‘I carried a watermelon’, but of course the line that gets the best audience response is ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’.
What’s it like doing the lift at the end of ‘Time of my Life’?
There is a great deal of pressure to master the lift sequence. We know that people have come to see that moment, and because it is live, we only have one shot to get it right. But Gareth [Bailey, who plays Johnny] and I have a wonderful trusting relationship and we work well together.
We heard you have 21 costume changes throughout the show – how do you manage that?
Team work. My show is very busy, I have a wonderful dresser who helps me with all the changes.