Ready to fly without wings
It’s pretty obvious that the lead actors of “Dirty Dancing” have strong chemistry onstage and off.
Like war buddies or a long-married couple, Bryony Whitfield and Gareth Bailey freely joke about each other without remorse, or fear of retaliation.
A group of Filipino journalists met the two recently in Cape Town, South Africa. Told that Bailey counted roller-skating and guitar-playing among his special skills, Whitfield, quick on the draw, said, “He also does magic tricks and flair bar-tending.”
Bailey had no choice but to confess: “I used to be a bartender—weekends, in the United Kingdom.”
And after Whitfield admitted that she “stalked” her character Baby by watching the 1987 movie repeatedly, Bailey retorted, “She flew to the United States and camped out in front of the house of Jennifer Grey (who played the role in the movie).”
Surely, these two would build an even deeper rapport as the show goes on tour. From Johannesburg and Cape Town, the show will proceed to Asia— Hong Kong (April 15 to May 12), Singapore (June 4 to 21) and, finally, Manila (July 4 to 21).
They are currently in Manila for a promo tour. They are set to fly back to South Africa today.
“Gareth and I have developed a good onstage relationship,” Whitfield told her visitors in Cape Town. Such a bond is imperative, since they rely on each other, especially for the show’s climactic lifting scene.
Explained Bailey: “I lift a lot of the girls in several dance numbers. I have to be strong, so that when something goes wrong onstage, I can pull back and prevent an accident.”
(There are also several spotters in the ensemble trained to respond swiftly and catch dancers who may fall.)
Thus, it’s vital for the male lead to stick to a rigorous exercise regimen—running and lifting weights—during the show’s entire run.
“I train four to five times a week,” Bailey related. “Through the years, I’ve noticed that when I stop training, I end up getting injured or most easily fatigued. Staying fit allows me to push myself to the max.”
From all discernible indications, Bailey, a gorgeously sculpted specimen of masculine power, relishes sweating it out.
“I enjoy training,” he confirmed. “It keeps me on my game.”
The show’s vaunted grand lift is always thrilling for Whitfield.
“It’s the highlight of every night for me,” she said. “It’s the closest thing to flying without a harness. Gareth is very tall (6’3”), so when he lifts me over his head…it’s like I soar over the audience and I get to see them cheering, smiling, applauding. It makes the job worthwhile.”
Truth be told, they have their work cut out for them, as they are taking over roles made iconic by Grey and the late Patrick Swayze.
“It’s not a matter of how similar to, or different from, the original I can be,” Bailey asserted. “It’s about being the character—relating with him and understanding him.”
True to the film
Whitfield agreed: “I told Gareth that we couldn’t be carbon copies of Jennifer and Patrick, although exploring Baby was a fantastic adventure for me, personally. I relate with her because I also come from a small town (East London, SA) and I’m very close to my family. But in the end, it’s about trusting the story and the dialogue. It’s about real people going through real emotions. We have to believe in that process.”
The play remained true to the film, Bailey pointed out. “We are telling the same story; it’s inevitable that our characters would appear the same (as Jennifer’s and Patrick’s). The difference would be our interpretations, how we inhabit the characters.”
Whitfield concurred: “The script tells the story. As the show went along, I discovered who Baby was. I felt as if everything was building up to that moment. Now, I feel exactly what she’s feeling every night onstage.”
(Produced by Pieter Toerien, Hazel Feldman, Karl Sydow, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, Joye Entertainment, Hi-Definition Radio Inc., Concertus, “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage” is presented in Manila by Visa. It opens at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater on July 4.)