Tag Archives: Dirty Dancing

10 Questions with Jill Winternitz

12 Dec
Jill Winternitz moved all the way to London to train at RADA. Her theatre credits include Ophelia in Hamlet and the Prioress in The Canterbury Tales (Queen Mary II), Wounded (Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble), Nina in The Seagull (MXAT) and Sunday in the Park with George (Interlochen Center for the Arts). Whilst training she appeared in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Three Sisters, Julius Caesar and Oleanna. Her film credits include Alice in The Sorrows and Lauren in The Replacement Child.

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You are an American in London – how did that happen? Did you always want to study in the UK rather than in the USA?
I had always dreamed of training at RADA, but never thought there was much chance of getting in as an American.  There were four rounds of auditions, with the final being in London.  You have to take chances in life and go for the things you most want.  This one paid off and I remember getting a call from Nicholas Barter, the principal of RADA at the time, offering me a place about 15 minutes before I was about to watch ‘Hay Fever’ in the West End starring Dame Judi Dench.  I started crying with joy and thought, wow, I hope I can be doing what she’s doing at her age.  It was quite a moment for me.

Imagine someone had told you five years ago you would be making your West End debut playing Baby in Dirty Dancing – what would you have said?
There is no way I would have believed them!  I presumed most of my work in the UK would be in classical theatre because of my training.  I also never thought I could learn to dance to the level required of my role in Dirty Dancing.  It’s been such a dream job for me and one that’s really allowed me to grow as an actress.

It must be nice to be home in London again after touring the UK with Dirty Dancing. Do you enjoy touring in general? What are the good / bad things about being on tour?
It is SO nice to be home.  I really missed my other half (filmmaker Mike Doxford) when I was away.  I moved to London when I was 19 and have really grown up in this city, so I missed it a lot too.  The great thing for me about touring though was seeing the UK.  There are some gorgeous places, and such rich history.  It was a real education and an experience I am so grateful for.

Would you like to do more musical theatre in the future? Any dream roles you’d like to play in musical theatre?
I love musical theatre!  It was the first kind of theatre I ever saw as a kid, and I became quite obsessive about shows as teenager such as Rent, Wicked, and The Last Five Years.  As far as shows I’d love to be involved with, there are many:  Once is such a gorgeous show, pretty much any Sondheim musical, I also love the work they do with musical theatre at the Donmar Warehouse.

Do you enjoy going to the theatre in your free time? If so, what shows/plays have you seen lately? Any recommendations?
Going to theatre is one of my main hobbies actually.  Call me crazy, but on a night off you will often find me seeing a show.  Recently I have seen and loved ‘Let the Right One In’ at the Royal Court, ‘The Light Princess’ at the National Theatre, and ‘The Bodyguard’ where Beverley Knight smashes it with the most incredible vocals!

Is there a theatre you would love to work in at some point in the future? Personally I think The National must be a dream workplace for any actor.
You guessed it!  I would love to work at The National.  Also on the list is the Royal Court, The Almeida, Menier Chocolate Factory, and Shakespeare’s Globe.

When you’re not doing anything theatre related, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m really into yoga.  That’s my favourite way to unwind and feel centred.  This industry can be such a roller coaster of emotions and I find yoga to be very balancing.

I believe you are a bit of a Christmas fan. What is the special thing about Christmas for you?
Yes, I absolutely love Christmas time!  For me it’s always been about family and spreading joy.  It has great memories for me and each year I love making new ones too.  I also love the things that go along with Christmas – magical lights, German Christmas markets, ice skating, mulled wine, the smell of cinnamon, a log fire, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker!

With Dirty Dancing finishing its London run at the end of February, what are your plans for 2014?
When DD closes, I plan to fly straight to LA to do the tail end of pilot season (the time of year where TV networks are casting all their new pilots).  It will be great to see my family and get some sunshine as well.  I’d love to move into TV and Film alongside my work in theatre.

Finally, why should people go and watch Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre?
Dirty Dancing is such an iconic and loved story, and at the Piccadilly we really invite you into the world of Kellerman’s, so you feel like you were also there in that summer of 1963. Come along if you want to enjoy some great tunes, a cracking romance, and leave the theatre in a better mood than when you arrived!

Thank you Jill for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!

Follow Jill on Twitter @JillWinternitz

Book your tickets for Dirty Dancing here.

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Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre – 20th July 2013

31 Jul

Dirty Dancing is without a doubt one of the most popular movies of the 80s. And I will admit it here and now: I love the movie and have seen it various times.
When I first heard rumours about a stage version of Dirty Dancing several years ago I was properly excited. I saw real potential and the possibility for a gorgeous dance musical with great songs. Years later and after having seen the show in both Germany and the UK I now think differently. Dirty Dancing – at least in its current manifestation – doesn’t really work as a stage show. It’s not that the material is bad. After all there’s romance, great dancing, catchy tunes and handsome people. But when you put a movie on stage one thing is essential: You can’t transfer a movie scene by scene. But that is exactly what has happened with Dirty Dancing. And because of the almost ridiculous amount of tiny scenes stuck together the show doesn’t flow properly. It seems rushed and incomplete which I think is a real shame. After all shows like Saturday Night Fever have proven that a dance movie can be turned into a good stage show.

After being on tour for about a year Dirty Dancing has now moved into its temporary new home in the West End. The show is slightly different from the last West End production which is no surprise considering it is a touring version.  But then Dirty Dancing has never been the show of big sets. It’s all about the dancing in the end and we sure get plenty of that.

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Paul-Michael Jones steps into Patrick Swayze’s shoes as Johnny Castle. Personally I think he lacks the proper looks for the part – I always picture Johnny as tall, dark and handsome and while Paul-Michael Jones is tall and nice to look at he’s definitely not the dark type. However, he makes up for this with his brilliant dancing skills and a kind of boyish charm he brings to the part. I enjoyed his take on Johnny a lot.

Jill Winternitz is Baby Houseman and she is without a doubt the sweetest and most natural Baby I have seen so far. I adored her from the moment she stepped on stage. Baby’s sister Lisa is played by Emilia Williams and I have to say for me she is the one weak link on stage. It may be due to direction but her Lisa is so completely over the top that I couldn’t connect with her at all. Yes, Lisa’s “solo” during the end of the season performance is supposed to be funny – but it shouldn’t be ridiculously silly.

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Charlotte Gooch’s Penny Johnson is quite a sight. She is just gorgeous to look at and a fierce dancer. Her performance is simply wonderful and she manages to give Penny a vulnerability that draws the audience in straight away.

Stefan Menaul has to be the cutest Neil Kellerman in the history of Dirty Dancing. It is very easy to turn Neil into a complete geek but to make him slightly geeky but equally cute and actually quite likable is a real achievement. So thumbs up for Stefan for that!

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A special mention goes to Wayne Smith who plays Johnny’s brother Billy and gets to sing the iconic “Time of my life” amongst other songs. It is wonderful to see Wayne back on stage in the West End. He is such a natural on stage and now he finally gets to show off his lovely singing voice.

The rest of the cast does a great job. This show must be tough for every dancer. The choreography is demanding and the cast rarely get the chance to catch their breath between scenes (another result of the constant scene changes).

So, whilst I stand by my opinion that Dirty Dancing is not a very good stage show I really enjoyed seeing all those talented people on stage. They are what make this show worth watching. And yes, I will be back because there is no way I am missing out on seeing Joseph Prouse (who was away on the day I saw the show) do a bit of dirty dancing. And the only thing I am dreading is the typical Dirty Dancing audience. I realise this show attracts hen nights and the likes and I have nothing against an enthusiastic audience. But there is a difference between enthusiastic and plain awkward and sometimes even rude behaviour. Screaming (not cheering, I’m talking of proper hysteric screams) when Johnny makes his appearance to tell everyone that “no one puts Baby in a corner” is just a complete no go. And yes, we are not watching Shakespeare but talking loudly while the show is going on is rude towards both your fellow audience members and the cast.

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So, if you like the movie and want to see the famous lift and all live on stage you should consider watching Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre. Be prepared for bad audience behaviour though!

Dirty Dancing is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre until 22nd February 2014. For more info and to book tickets go here.