Brown - who originated the stage role of dance instructor Johnny, created on screen by Patrick Swayze – performed earlier this year at a media launch for the UK show (pictured with the launch’s host, TV presenter Tess Daly - See WOS TV & News, 27 Feb 2006). A former principal dancer with the Australian Ballet, Brown’s other credits Down Under include Anna Karenina, Madam Butterfly and The Nutcracker. He’ll make his West End debut in the show, which will mark the West End musical debut for Rich, who appeared earlier this year opposite Diana Rigg and Martin Jarvis in the West End production of Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Honour.
Set at an upmarket American holiday camp called Kellerman’s in the 1960s, the 1987 film of Dirty Dancing starred Jennifer Grey as the teenaged Baby Houseman who falls in love with the camp's working class dance instructor Johnny Castle, played by Swayze, whose climactic line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”, has since become a classic.
Commenting on his West End engagement, Brown said: “Johnny Castle is one of the most exciting characters in one of the best stories that I've ever brought to life on stage. Bringing it to the West End is a real buzz. It feels like everyone is so excited about this show.”
Rich added: “I am really thrilled to be part of this fantastic production. I am a little nervous but very excited about playing Baby on the West End stage and looking forward to when we start rehearsals.”
At the launch today, which was held at the Aldwych Theatre, Rich told Whatsonstage.com: “It is a big challenge and certainly different from anything I’ve ever done before. But I trained as a dancer for three years between the ages of about 16 and 19, so I am enjoying the dancing.” Brown said: “It is one of those films that everyone has seen. Watching Patrick Swayze taught me it’s OK to be a man and dance, he is so powerful in the film and moody and romantic, and the character is such a rounded, believable person; and it is such a great film. I think it’s a favourite of so many people, and girls who weren’t even born when it was released say they have seen it and they love it.” Rich echoed his sentiments: “My aunt who is in her 50s has seen it and loves it, and I have some teenage friends who have seen it and it’s their favourite film too, so it certainly has mass appeal.”
Dirty Dancing has been adapted for the stage by the film’s screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, who based the story’s setting on her own childhood experiences of family holidays in America’s Catskill Mountains. The musical had its world premiere in Sydney in 2004 and has since proved a hit on tour in Australia and Germany.
The creative team for the London production has also now been confirmed: James Powell will direct, with musical supervision by Conrad Helfrich, choreography by Kate Champion, set design by Stephen Brimson-Lewis, lighting by Tim Mitchell, sound by Bobby Aitken and costumes by Jennifer Irwin. The musical is presented in London by Jacobsen Entertainment and Karl Sydow in association with Lion Gate Films and Magic Hour Productions.
- by Caroline Ansdell