Nobody puts this baby in the corner...

Dirty Dancing's Paul Michael Jones as Johnny and Carlie Milner as Penny with Gazette entertainment writer Anna Cryer
Dirty Dancing's Paul Michael Jones as Johnny and Carlie Milner as Penny with Gazette entertainment writer Anna Cryer
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The moment Patrick Swayze uttered the immortal line: “Nobody puts baby in the corner,” his fate was sealed as the ultimate heartthrob for many a teenage girl.

Now, I might not have been old enough to be among them when the film Dirty Dancing was released in 1987, but those words still rang in my ears as a new stage version of the story launched in Blackpool.

Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze as Baby and Johnny in Dirty Dancing

Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze as Baby and Johnny in Dirty Dancing

A chance to recreate some of the classic dance moves was not going to be passed up – even at nearly eight months pregnant.

Nobody was putting my baby in the corner.

My Johnny Castle, Swayze’s character in the film for the uninitiated, for the day was Paul Michael Jones, joined by Carlie Milner, who has played bad girl dancer Penny in previous productions of the stage version, and will reprise the role when the new tour opens at the Opera House this August.

Producer Karl Sydow and associate choreographer Jacquie Biggs were also in town, to reveal behind the scenes snippets to an invited audience.

Dirty Dancing's Paul Michael Jones as Johnny and Carlie Milner as Penny.

Dirty Dancing's Paul Michael Jones as Johnny and Carlie Milner as Penny.

Bump not forgotten, it was with some nerves that I took to the Opera House stage to see if I could ‘really shake ‘em down’ - as Do You Love Me from the film asserts.

But past dance experience held me in good stead, as we set to with some basic salsa steps; balance – and dignity – remained intact, as Paul gradually upped the ante trying ever trickier moves including turns and switches.

Encouraged by my progress, he and Jacquie even put in the steamy opening move to the movie’s pinnacle dance moment, when Johnnie and Baby dance at the holiday camp’s talent contest to the heart-stopping (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

Rabbit in the headlights time!

Dirty Dancing producer Karl Sydow

Dirty Dancing producer Karl Sydow

I may have Baby’s mousey brown curls, but I guess I’m no Jennifer Grey in the making as it’s all I can do to not giggle at this point.

But Paul has no such qualms in recreating the film’s most iconic moments, and a character like Johnny.

“It’s a hard act to follow, of course,” he said, having played the role in the first UK tour in 2011. “It was scary at first but the audience seem to love it and after the first few scenes they do accept that it’s not actually Patrick Swayze brought back to life, but they warm to the characters in their own right.

“It’s a special role to take on though as Patrick Swayze was someone to look up to as a young dancer.”

As one of the highlights of this year’s programme at the Opera House, Dirty Dancing - ‘the classic story on stage’ could see a whole new generation inspired.

And any fans of the film who’ve not yet seen the stage show will be in for a treat Karl and Jacquie promise.

There’s a mix of live music and original recordings, as heard in the film’s smash hit soundtrack - songs such as Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, You Don’t Own Me, and Big Girls Don’t Cry all featuring, and more dance than ever before.

Jacquie explained how the choreography needed developing for the musical, taking the close up shots of the movie and expanding them to fill the live stage.

“We needed to come up with a bigger variety of language to make it into a musical theatre ensemble show,” she said. “There’s more than 100 different dances for the leads, company and understudies to remember, so that we make the dances look like they’re almost improvised as they would be in a club or ballroom.”

A new-look ‘super sexy’ touring version of the show will make its UK premiere in the resort, direct from the continent.

“The Italian creative team had the previous version of the show, and said ‘Can we have a go?’,” Karl said.

“And they put together a very, very sexy version, which we very much liked.

“Eleanor Bergstein [who wrote the film and stage versions] saw it and loved it and worked with them to get it absolutely right, and we thought ‘Hang on’...

“With the issues of touring, like which theatres you can fit in to - a problem in Italy as well as the UK, there are places we haven’t been able to visit that we can go to this time.

“But we’re bringing something new and fresh for people who’ve seen the show before, so they will like it just as much if not more.”

While the size of the Opera House hasn’t been a prohibiting factor in the show, which premiered in the UK in 2006, visiting Blackpool before now, Karl promises a ‘flexible’ set which will do the story credit while also being adaptable for smaller venues.

And he admits Blackpool’s long been on his hit list of places to visit with the touring production.

“It’s not been my fault, but we had problems in the past booking the theatre,” he said. “But we’ve been greeted with open arms now.

“Blackpool’s dance heritage is part of the attraction; there’s a big dance audience here looking for what this show is all about.

“It’s a famous entertainment town and Dirty Dancing would be the perfect sort of show to come here to this great venue.”


* The independent film was made for $5m - a sum surpassed in costs on every stage version Karl Sydow’s produced.

* It has earned more than $214m worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time.

* Two soundtracks have sold more than 39million copies, and counting.

* It was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video, a statistic it repeated on DVD release too.

* The stage show’s UK premiere in 2006 at the Aldwych Theatre in London was the biggest West End advance in history at £15m - a record only exceeded last year when Harry Potter And The Cursed Child went on sale.

* Dirty Dancing, Blackpool Opera House, August 11-30. Go to for tickets