February 01, 2013
Dirty Dancing’s Baby is having the Time of Her Life in Cape Town
Nobody puts Baby in a corner – and there is no doubt that the beautiful Bryony Whitfield, who plays the iconic character in Dirty Dancing: the Classic Story on Stage at the Artscape Theatre, will ever find herself in that position in theatre-loving Cape Town.
I had the amazing opportunity of seeing Whitfield, her too-sexy-for-words “Johnny”, UK star Gareth Bailey, and the rest of the cast perform at the official opening night on Saturday 26 January, 2013 and I was left gobsmacked with appreciation and awe for this stage sensation.
Blink once and you might easily mistake the brunette beauty for Jennifer Grey, the actress who established the iconic role of Baby Houseman in the award-winning 1987 film, but it soon becomes apparent that Whitfield, a South African musical theatre-trained performer, wields an alluring magic all of her own.
Against the backdrop of ever-changing sets, done with flair by Stephen Brimson Lewis (complete with a real log for the scene where Johnny teaches Baby some balancing techniques, no less!) and under the direction of Sarah Tipple, Whitfield expertly portrays Baby’s transformation from sweet naïve ingénue to confident and talented woman in dance and love.
I chatted to Whitfield about bringing Baby to the stage, her theatrical dreams and why she loves Cape Town:
Women the world over have wanted to be Baby. How does your portrayal of this iconic character differ from Jennifer Grey’s?
When I heard earlier this year that I had landed the dream role of Baby, I couldn't stop watching the film with all the excitement. I studied Baby – especially the way she reacted to things. We were allowed to explore our own interpretation of the character, which gave us the freedom to bring an element of ourselves to the roles. I have taken a great deal of my own personal experiences and can relate to Baby in a wonderful way.
What inspires you?
I can be inspired by a stranger on the side of the road, selling a newspaper to a close friend. I believe your heart has to be open. You are in control of what inspires and moves you.
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing Dirty Dancing on stage?
When I first saw the show in the UK I was really impressed. The way the stage production has been done is slick, clever and so effective. It's all done right. People come for the iconic lift, lines, characters, music and the love story – and the stage version really delivers. Audiences will leave feeling uplifted, and it promises for a good night out!
What were your first thoughts upon meeting Gareth Bailey, and how do you keep the chemistry between the two of you going?
Gareth and I have been together since day one, up close and in each other’s faces and exploring our characters together. It does help that we get along really well off stage, too. When you working so close with someone it's nice to know that it is a safe, comfortable environment. We support and trust each other. I am proud and privileged to be working with Gareth, who is a not only a fantastic Johnny, but a great friend.
Which musical would you most like to perform in and as which character?
My childhood dream was to perform in Cats, and I was able to live that dream in 2009 when I performed the role of Sillabub. I would do that show again in a heartbeat. I have a few musicals on my list now. Here's to many more happy years in the industry.
Any advice for aspirant performers?
Build your life on positive thoughts.
Which one of the Dirty Dancing songs would best describe Cape Town?
Well, I’m really having The Time of my Life (the 1987 Academy Award winner for Best Song) in Cape Town right now! I always love visiting the Mother City and what a beautiful time of the year too, so I am doing a great deal of adventuring.
Why do you love Cape Town?
I love the beach, the mountain, the many adventurous things you can do here. It’s really a beautiful place! Thank you, Cape Town for having the Dirty Dancing team.
Dirty Dancing: the Classic Story on Stage, brought to you by legendary theatre maestros Pieter Toerien, Hazel Feldman and Karl Sydow, runs at the Artscape Theatre until 3 March, 2013. Tickets for the show are R100 to R400, and are available at Computicket.
Be mesmerized by Bryony Whitfield and her co-star's sexy moves in local morning breakfast TV show Expresso’s video clip below: