Dirty Dancing Blackpool - curtains back up on Winter Gardens summer major musical
It was a long time coming and got off to stunted start but actors Kira Malou and Michael O’Reilly are more than ready to give audiences a time of their life at the Blackpool Opera House.
The stage stars alongside their top class cast are part of the Winter Gardens huge comeback with its big summer musical Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story.
And it was curtains up for the second time this weekend after the cast and production's recent spell in isolation, which halted the show's run after their opening performance.
Both Kira and Michael are returning to the lead roles as Frances Baby’ Houseman and Johnny Castle in the UK touring musical, characters first made famous by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the classic 1987 musical film.
See the cast in Blackpool:
Kira, who is now on her fourth tour with the production, said they’re 'super excited’ to be in Blackpool for the summer and this week they took the opportunity to enjoy the sights of the resort and entertain members of public recreating that iconic lift scene.
Kira says: “We got here and took a walk along the beach - it’s been so good, it got us super excited. It’s going to be amazing to explore and see more of it.”
The summer musical launch, which reopened on the weekend, is one of the first major large scale shows to return to the county in more than 15 months since the first lockdown began in March 2020, which saw the enforced closure of venues nationally.
Southampton-born Kira, 25, a graduate of Tiffany Theatre College in Southend-on-Sea, says: “Usually it is just pure excitement to get back on stage but after this last year there is just so much - it’s exciting, but emotional.
“It’s a lot of emotions and I’m sure that first night back on stage, it’s all going to come out so that is going to be a good show to watch.”
Co-star Michael, 22, from Devon, who joined the cast in 2019 for his first professional stage debut, said he had loved the energy’ being part of the Dirty Dancing tour cast and described the production as a must -see’.
He says: “I didn’t quite realise what a big deal the show was it was until we actually started performing. I came out the door on the opening night and there was a gang of about 50 Irish women, screaming and throwing watermelons at me.”
After taking the lead in the special dance session held in the Winter Garden’s stunning Spanish Hall, Michael, who only started dancing at 16 and has worked with renowned British choreographer Michael Bourne, says: “Honestly it’s tough to put into words because not only has it been a difficult year for everyone we’re going to all be in the theatre for the first time.
“It’s going to be a massive celebration of overcoming this crazy challenge, celebrating the story but it’s a story that is really close to us.
“I made my professional debut in this show years ago so coming back means the world and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”
Trained dancer Kira adds: “It’s such a special show. Like Michael said , it means a lot to both of us and to be coming back into these roles with each other as well.
“And there’s a lot of great topics in there that actually have come back in the past year as well. So it’s going to be a lot deeper and more meaningful.”
Producer Karl Sydow’s theatrical version Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage has enchanted whole new audiences and Michael says the stage version allows them to add more depth to some of the characters and their individual stories and build a greater layer of connection with theatre-goers.
He says: “We go into a lot of the kind of racial discrimination from the 1960s to the 1980s and the whole story is about overcoming adversity and proving to yourself and the world that your that you have a place and you have a unique voice and being able to express that.
“And, you know, it’s got this cult following and everyone loves Patrick’s way and they love Jennifer. But at the core of it, it’s got a real timeless message and I think we need that right now.”
The stage production features all the hit songs Dirty Dancing fans would come to expect Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, Do You Love Me? and, of course, the theme track that won the film an Oscar for best original song (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.
It remains without doubt a moment in the show cast and audiences alike most look forward to, not forgetting that all important lift.
Kira laughs: “So Michael and I actually did the lift together the very first day in rehearsals. The team they were like, do you want to try it? Do you want to go from there?’
“So it was okay.....yeah’ So we did. He’s pretty big. He looks like he can hold me alright and....touch wood It’s never gone wrong, but it’s just that moment that everyone knows it’s coming in the show and when we do it, we can see the audience up on their feet.
“And it’s so exciting to be a part of that.”
For young actor Michael, there is also an added pressure of meeting the expectations in the signature role, for which heartthrob and superstar, the late Patrick Swayze was idolised. Swayze died aged 57 from pancreatic cancer in 2011.
He says he is still thrilled to be donning the trademark shades and leather jacket of Johnny Castle, one half of one of the best-loved duos in popular culture.
He says: “It’s funny because the first time I did the show, I avoided everything Dirty Dancing. I was like, I don’t want to watch it, I don’t want to have that impression of what Patrick did.
“I want to be inspired, but I don’t want to copy and it worked really well, but this time because I know that I’ve got my own take on it. I went back. I was watching interviews, what to film, how he learned the dance, how he grew up, and it just blew me away, you know, super inspired by Patrick as a person and just man, crazy excited to get my hands on the role again.”
Kira adds: “ I think as well because people know the show, they know it, They love it - they want to see Johnny and Baby and Patrick Swayze and Jennifer , so in some ways we want to be truthful to that and do it justice as well.”
Both say the reaction from theatre to theatre never fails to overwhelm and is something they relish and can’t wait to be part of once again.
“Honestly, it’s just the best show because people know the lines - so there’s people saying the lines before I’ve got to them, it’s brilliant.
“And when everyone’s up dancing and singing, we just enjoy ten fold because of that.”
Michael laughs: “There’s a part in the show where it’s getting to the end, just before Time of my Life, and I have this moment where I come through the audience and it’s the line Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ and the audience know it’s coming.’
“And sometimes they just erupt and they go crazy, and I’ve waited there for, like, 30 seconds to a minute before they’ll let me say this line - and it’s a testament to how much they love the story.
“This time we’ve got some real surprises, some scenes that aren’t in the film, some new character moments, some extra relationship dynamics and it’s going to be pretty special.
“I mean, if you want the time of your life, you should come and see the show, right?”
“At the core of it is a real timeless message.”
Dirty Dancing at Blackpool Opera House