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The classic tale of Baby and Johnny… remember that watermelon on the bridge, the lift in the lake, and that steamy night in the bedroom? Perth Guide chats to Kirby Burgess about starring as Baby in the Australian tour of Dirty Dancing, and how hard it is to nail that lift.

How is the tour going – are we in for a treat?
It honestly is a great night out! The audience always feels like they’re part of the story. They hoot and holler, cry and laugh. Look out for the moment Johnny says, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,”because everyone around you goes wild!

What do you enjoy most about playing Baby?
I love her spirit. She is so eager to learn but quick to fight for what she believes is right. She is a unique role to play: Baby is the comic relief, the love interest, the dramatic role, the damsel in distress and the hero. Very rarely do you get to be all those in one role. She was very easy to fall in love with.

How did you manage to nail the infamous lift? Was there loads of practice for it?
I won’t lie – the lift is hard! The biggest lesson we had to learn was to relax. The less effort we both put in, the safer and easier it is, which goes against every instinct when you are running towards someone you hope is going to lift you above their head. But we trust each other, and the pay-off every night is worth all the blood, sweat and tears.

Have you got any funny little stories from the rehearsal process you can share with us?
I call the opening of Act 2 ‘Baby’s Walk of Shame’. Now, our associate director was a very dry-humoured American man who wasn’t aware of this saying. As
I explained it, embarrassed, he replied in his perfectly dry manner, “Oh, I don’t have shame as an emotion.” I have never laughed so hard, and I think of that moment every opening of Act 2.

Kirby Burgess with co-star Kurt Phelan.

 

Crown Theatre, Aug 5-23.

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