Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage brings new heart and spectacle to the 1987 film. Johnny and Baby’s timeless summer love will come alive in Adelaide, in October this year. The home-grown stage phenomenon, which boasts an all-star cast of Australian performers, has garnered universal acclaim since its inception in 2004. I recently spoke with Penny Martin, who portrays Baby’s mother, Majorie Houseman.
With over thirty years experience, Martin has amassed an impressive resume – including theatre, ballet, and choreography. With such a varied background, I asked if she has a preference: on-stage, or off. “I absolutely love performing, but I also have a passion for making other performers feel comfortable… But I think performing still wins,” she admits.
Martin has long been a fan of the original film. “I was at the right age where I thought Patrick Swayze was everything,” she says eagerly. Her favourite scene was when Johnny and Baby practice her big lift in the lake. Martin recognised this technique, having performed with the Australian Youth Ballet, though she learned in a swimming pool. The on-screen interpretation is far more romantic. When asked how this scene is recreated on-stage, she says wryly: “It’s really cool, but I can’t give anything away.”
Auditions for Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage took place in Sydney, and attracted hordes of hopeful performers. Martin recalls: “I was just lucky enough to get the part. I had the right characteristics to play the mum.” Martin has a sixteen-year-old son, the same age as her on-stage daughters. When I spoke with Martin, she was enjoying a rare afternoon off and having a lakeside lunch with her co-stars Kirby Burgess (Baby) and Teagan Wouters (Lisa). She jokes that, sometimes, her “two worlds collide.”
Martin has nothing but wonderful things to say about her fellow cast and crew. “It is a really talented group of people,” she assures me. “There are people who have danced and sung and performed in so many different genres and so many different pieces. There’s not one weak link in the show… Each night we commit to making sure everyone – I know this sounds corny, but still – has the time of their life. It has real heart.”
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage will run from 2nd October – 1st November at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Bookings at the Bass website
Interview by Nicola Woolford.