GREAT CAUSE: Kurt Phelan as Johnny and Kirby Burgess as Baby in a scene from Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage. Photo Contributed
GREAT CAUSE: Kurt Phelan as Johnny and Kirby Burgess as Baby in a scene from Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage. Photo Contributed Contributed

Classic 80s film hits QPac stage

THAT pink dress, that hair and that infamous lift - Dirty Dancing is an '80s pop culture icon.

The romantic drama became a cult film classic thanks to its soundtrack, memorable lines ("no one puts Baby in a corner" is one example), fashions and the firm physique and animal magnetism of leading man Patrick Swayze.

The summertime coming of age story comes back to life in the return of Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story on Stage.

The live show made its world debut in Sydney in 2004 and has been touring ever since.

The show is back on tour in Australia with a fresh-faced cast, helmed by two rising talents who are making their leading stage role debuts.

Donning the tight black pants and singlet made famous by Swayze in the 1987 film is Kurt Phelan.

The NIDA graduate and original cast member of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is on a strict diet and exercise regime to maintain his character's chiselled physique.

"It's a mindset that's changed, but I'm enjoying it; I've never been healthier," he told APN.

The Townsville native will have a large contingent of North Queensland family and friends in the audience on opening night.

"Yes we're opening again (after Sydney and Melbourne) but there are no nerves anymore," he said.

"We've refined it. Yeah, you still have that adrenaline rush but we know what to do and how to do it, so let's enjoy it a bit more instead of freaking out."

The film buff remembers Swayze as one of his few childhood idols who made dancing masculine.

"It always surprises me the people who go 'Oh I loved that film growing up' and you're like 'Wow you're a truck driver'," he laughed.

"That's the charm of a cult classic. It is something that happens and then the culture takes it on board and runs with it; that's what happened with Dirty Dancing."

Starring opposite Phelan as Frances "Baby" Houseman is Kirby Burgess, who studied performing arts in New York City and has recently appeared on Channel 10's Wonderland, in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby and as the Dance Captain in the Helpmann Award-winning musical Sweet Charity.

"A lot of people remember Patrick Swayze (from the film) and the girl with the perm," she said.

"What's exciting for me is that people come out remembering it's the story of Baby Houseman. It's her coming of age story and you're seeing it from her perspective. It's nice to remind people of that… that's it not just about perving on a guy and watching people gyrate. It's actually a story that everyone's kind of experienced in their life."

The show faithfully follows the plot of the film, which sees Baby fall in love with dance instructor Johnny Castle at her summer holiday camp.

It comes to a climax as Baby and Johnny finally perfect a dance lift they spent weeks rehearsing.

"The lift in the end, when we do get it and everyone goes nuts it's nice and it's as exciting for us as much as it is for the audience," Burgess said.

"What you know and love from the film is all there. We haven't taken anything out. We've just added some extra scenes to develop the story.

"It's nice to bring something that has such a nostalgic memory for so many people to life."

Dirty Dancing opens at QPAC's Lyric Theatre tonight and plays until July 12.

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