Dirty Dancing’s Gareth Bailey Looks Forward to Performing at The Liverpool Empire

Posted on 25 March 2015
By Chris High
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It is one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s, with its memorable soundtrack, brilliant choreography, recognisable “standout” lines and, understandably, the late Patrick Swayze’s buff six- pack getting a full airing. Now Dirty Dancing is set to return to The Liverpool Empire Theatre after an absence of three years, with touring show veteran Gareth Bailey taking the part of Swayze’s Johnny Castle; a role he has been playing since a South African production of the show in 2012 and one that, despite some difficulties, he relishes.

“I got into dance in a random sort of way, to be honest, “Gareth explained. “My sister was due to attend a Saturday school, which happened to be for the Italia Conti Dance Academy, but she pulled out at the last minute and I went along and took her place. My actual schooling on an academic level was pretty unenjoyable back then, largely because I’m dyslexic, so when I was introduced to musical theatre and dance and singing, it was something I really latched on to and embraced.”

“This was at the time of my GCSEs and I was at the point of deciding what I wanted to do at college, so I spoke to my mum and explained that I didn’t want to go and study English or whatever else was on offer in mainstream education. Because of my connections with the Italia Conti, I instead went to the Academy’s main school auditions at The London Barbican and was soon after offered a place which, obviously, I grabbed.”

For obvious reasons of learning to learn lines and written directions, for example, dyslexia in an actor can pose significant issues and challenges to overcome. However, Gareth has managed to forge a formidable career for himself. Not only with Dirty Dancing but also in other well received productions such as Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, Starlight Express in Germany and, also, an international tour of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. “When it comes to sight reading we sometimes have to go into an audition and read from a script straight away, which is a bit of a problem but actually, nowadays, production companies are pretty good in being aware of dyslexia and are more accepting, whereas ten, fifteen years maybe ago they weren’t as aware.”

“I actually think that because of my problems at school and the length of time it might take for me to complete something, it sort of installed a work ethic in me that means I have to produce a performance of a higher standard than that which might be expected. I strongly believe that for every difficulty we face in life – whether it is a learning issue or not – it makes us stronger in different ways. I may not be the quickest learning lines and what have you, but the effort I have to put in I can give my characters, hopefully, a bit of added depth and get to know them better because I drill myself harder so that when I’m performing, I’m stronger.”

Gareth’s experience in Dirty Dancing has been pretty long standing, too, starting on the UK tour in 2012. “I came to the show as Robbie, then took on the role of Johnny Castle in South Africa, which was a fantastic experience. I was the only British part of the company, most of the others were South African, was rewarding was that all the hard work I’d put in to getting the role had paid off. It is a lot to learn and there’s a lot required of the actor who plays the character. It takes a lot of commitment to learn the material and his style so to be able to pull it off during the international tour really gave my confidence a huge boost. It was also very nice to be able to pass some of my experience along to those other cast members who were perhaps not quite as experienced as I had become in the show and what it takes to perform in it at such a high level.”

Being such a timeless classic movie, and the part of Johnny Castle being synonymous with Patrick Swayze’s performance, brings its own pressures to the stage role. “It is one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a part of the production. I’ve been with Dirty Dancing for so long now, but that expectation of what is required from an audience who sees Johnny on stage for the first time never diminishes. There is absolutely no room or time in which dropping the ball playing him is an option. The audience knows exactly what the energy of the character should be, as well as the aesthetics with regards to his physique and fitness, and a soon as the edge comes off that for the actor playing him, the performance dips and the audience goes away disappointed. So that pressure of Patrick Swayze being the benchmark of the audience’s expectation is something that is really useful to have.”

“This will be my first time performing in Liverpool. Although the UK tour did visit The Empire in 2012, I was away at the time on the international tour of the show, but coming to Liverpool is really exciting for me. I love being able to tour the UK because of the exciting places we get to visit, but Liverpool will be special particularly as, I believe, The Empire is such a huge space in which to work. We visit The Palladium in London as the final venue on this tour and I believe The Empire’s stage isn’t too dissimilar to that, so it’ll be great to finally dance and act and sing up there.”

The Dirty Dancing tour is and has been pretty extensive not to say energetic, particularly for the principal dancers and performers, but fitness comes down to one important factor for Gareth, so that he can maintain the required expected levels of oomph to his performances. “Time management is crucial,” he said. “I try to be disciplined and commit to things that are important to me and training is just one of those things. If you commit to something then you just have to knuckle down and get it done. In fact, with regards to the training, it sometimes surprises people when I say that rather than making me tired, it actually gives me more energy. I find that if I sleep too long, sometimes it is difficult to wake up properly and I feel tired for the rest of the day so physically getting up and getting yourself going gives those levels of energy a boost.”

And when there is so much happening on stage – and given the fact that he has performed in Dirty Dancing so often now – Gareth is probably the best person to guarantee that the show will be something to remember for all of the right reasons. “High energy and fun are just two things an audience can expect. This production has taken what is quite possibly the most iconic so called “chick-flick” of all time and turned into a fabulous piece of live entertainment. It has some amazing dance moves, live music, beautiful scenery and some truly brilliant lighting … all mixed up in and around one of the greatest soundtracks ever written. Dirty Dancing is now an experience that very definitely delivers an atmosphere that you just cannot get even close to just watching Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey on the sofa in the living room.”

Dirty Dancing will be at The Liverpool Empire from April 7 – April 25. For booking information: http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/