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Jill steps into Jennifer's dancing shoes to bring iconic chick-flick to life on stage

By Herald Express  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

  • tender moment: Jill Winternitz in a scene with her co-star Paul-Michael Jones. She says: "I was so lucky as Paul-Michael found the lift natural. We started rehearsing with him lying on the floor and me balancing. It was all a very gradual process and we had four weeks of rehearsal."

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THE ICONIC chick flick Dirty Dancing is brought to life in the stage musical of the same name at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, later this month.

Written by Eleanor Bergstein, the script writer and creator of the successful film, it features all the much-loved characters and original dialogue from the iconic 1987 film with exciting extra scenes added in.

The show has already been seen by more than five million people worldwide and this tour, which covers the UK, has broken box office records.

American actress Jill Winternitz stars as idealistic Baby Houseman, the role taken by Jennifer Grey in the film.

The California-born performer is enjoying life on the road.

"As a cast, we feel so lucky to be part of a production that's so loved by the audience," she said.

"We step out on stage every night and we feel the audience are behind us every step of the way and engage in the journey the characters go on.

"It's such a joy to have that support and we're lucky to have a show which has such a following."

Before landing the role, she hadn't even seen the movie.

She said: "This took the pressure off me to start with, but as I've gone along I've felt the pressure as I realised how much the audience love the character. It just made me want to step up to the challenge and embrace it.

"Jennifer Grey was fantastic, charming and loveable in the film and I try to take those aspects of the performance and bring in my own interpretation."

She's also loving the choreography and the performance element of the show. Importantly, she has mastered the famous dance lift at the end of the show.

"I've not had any training like my cast mates have, but I've done Elizabethan and historical dancing at RADA," she said.

"I also did tap, ballet and jazz at high school, but only to a certain point before I focussed on straight theatre.

"It's been a great challenge, but I can see I'm more confident and flexible.

"I was so lucky as Paul-Michael Jones, my co-star, found the lift natural. We started rehearsing with him lying on the floor and me balancing. It was all a very gradual process and we had four weeks of rehearsal.

"On opening night it was scary doing the lift, but I love that part of the show and it's a moment of triumph."

Her career has so far been focused on appearing in Shakespeare productions and straight plays, so diversifying into musical theatre was a challenge.

"I never saw myself getting into the musical theatre world and I've been welcomed with opens arms," she said.

"I'd very much consider doing another musical. I've fallen in love with performing every night and being in a company with such amazing singers and dancers.

"It makes me want to keep improving and I don't actually sing in the show, but I've now been inspired to take singing lessons and I'm loving it."

As well as appearing in more musicals, she'd also like to do TV. "My dream would be to get a role in shows like Mad Men or True Blood, but I'd love to do a great play or film," said Jill. "The main thing is I can keep working."

She's in Dirty Dancing until the summer and is having the time of her life.

"It's such a wonderful night out and leaves you feeling on top of the world," she said.

Dirty Dancing runs at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from January 22 to February 9. Book tickets now, call the box office on: 01752 267222 or online at www.theatreroyal.com/dancing

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