Dirty Dancing’s Baby is having the time of her life as the show comes to The Kings Theatre in Southsea

Michael O'Reilly (Johnny), Kira Malou (Baby) and Simone Covele (Penny) in Dirty Dancing. Picture by Alastair MuirMichael O'Reilly (Johnny), Kira Malou (Baby) and Simone Covele (Penny) in Dirty Dancing. Picture by Alastair Muir
Michael O'Reilly (Johnny), Kira Malou (Baby) and Simone Covele (Penny) in Dirty Dancing. Picture by Alastair Muir
Taking the lead role of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman in the stage version of Dirty Dancing has been a dream come true for Kira Malou.

The show based on the ‘classic story’ of the hit romantic drama film from 1987 starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, is currently on a UK tour, and Kira is indeed having the time of her life.

‘This is my first lead in a UK tour. I'm absolutely loving every second, it's amazing. I've trained as a dancer ever since I was tiny – acting's never been such a big thing. But it just happened I did the [Dirty Dancing] tour before as a dancer. I was also cover for Baby and then I went on a few times as her and I realised I really enjoyed it.

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‘So when the tour finished I took some acting classes, did more training, did more research, then I landed a TV job with Disney, and now I've come back to this. I've come back to the show as Baby, which is a dream come true.’

Kira trained at a musical theatre college, but was always more interested in dancing.

‘I did do acting and singing as well, but at the time I was so in love with the dancing I put all my focus into dance, dance, dance. I enjoyed the acting, but I never thought I'd be an actress, and now here I am!’

While the stage show isn’t a musical, it does obviously have a very strong musical element to it.

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‘I don't sing in this, they've kept it very true to the film – they don't have Johnny and Baby breaking into a love song or anything, but they do have a live band on stage with us and they're also actors as well – they're absolutely brilliant.’

The 23-year-old clearly remembers the first time she saw the film as a child: ‘I was probably way too young – my mum had it on and she was covering my eyes when some of the more suggestive scenes came on.

‘I rediscovered it when I was 16 doing my A-levels. I still had the videotape of it and I remember watching it and rewinding it and watching it again and again and again, and just totally falling in love with it.’

Playing Baby made her look more deeply at the character and the context of the 1963 setting.

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‘When you watch the film, you indulge in the love story between them, but playing her, I have so much admiration for her. Doing my research, in 1963, women didn't get to say much, but Baby's such a strong character, she wants to go into the Peace Corps and she's a strong character who fights for what she believes in. I think that's really admirable and I'm proud to be playing such an amazing character.

‘Everyone loves the music, they love the story, but there's so much more going on, and it's not until you have to study it and the time period you realise that.’’

Michael O’Reilly plays the part of Johnny, the dancing instructor at Kellerman’s holiday resort, where the story is set.

‘He's absolutely great. I couldn't ask for anyone better to play alongside, he's the hardest worker and he's so supportive.

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‘He really invests himself in the character and story as well. Whenever we're on stage together, it's something different every single night, and it's so much fun.’

And of course there is the climactic dance lift at the film’s finale that leaves no room for error.

‘Touch wood, it's never gone wrong.

‘The first day of rehearsals – we learned the dance numbers on the first day – we were dripping with sweat and out of breath, and then the guy was like: “Right, now let's try the lift”.

‘Michael's 6ft 2in, and then adding his arms, it's quite tall, so when he first lifted me up there was a little squeal came out of me. But I trust him completely.’

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With such a raunchy show, the action is not always confined entirely to the stage

‘The funniest thing is the audience, they get to be at Kellerman’s for the night, and it's very heavily female-based. They're often very vocal with showing their appreciation – there's a couple of scenes where Johnny shows off quite a bit of himself, and some of the things they shout out are so funny, trying not to smile or laugh is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

‘But when they're sitting in the front row and making these comments, it's absolutely hilarious. It's challenging to say the least...’

Dirty Dancing

The Kings Theatre, Southsea

May 29-June 1

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