Nobody puts Baby in a corner! We got to speak to star of Dirty Dancing on stage Carlie Milner about the beloved show that is playing at the Dominion Theatre in London and her role as Penny and love of dance.
How did you get into acting, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated with you?
My Mum took me to dance classes when I was 3 years old and I guess eventually it became something I was serious about pursuing professionally. It helped that my older siblings also danced and trained vocationally as teenagers. I was fortunate to watch a lot of ballets and musicals growing up though. But I can’t say there was one particular performance that spoke to me. I remember loving Grease and Fame though! I must have seen them both at the Sheffield Lyceum about 3 times when I was young. And because I trained in Classical Ballet more than anything, I also used to watch the Northern Ballet Company a lot, both in performance and in rehearsals, which was incredibly inspiring.
What has been your favourite role you have played and why?
Penny Johnson has to be up there for sure. It’s a brilliant role to take on because the dance side of things is fun but challenging. She also has to tell her story with limited script, which is always a good challenge because it means you have to immerse yourself in that character during every possible moment on stage. I think being part of Swan Lake with English National Ballet at the Royal Albert Hall was also an amazing experience for me. Dancing on that stage underneath an orchestra so powerful is truly unforgettable.
Can you tell us about your current project Dirty Dancing, what drew you to the iconic show in the role of Penny?
I’ve always loved the film. It’s such a cult classic and the fact that it’s played so frequently on TV speaks volumes, proving that it’s stood the test of time. The music in the show never gets old for me and I love the style of dance which is quite unique. The role of Penny combines my two favourite things, acting and dancing, and there aren’t that many roles in Musical Theatre that don’t involve singing, so it fits me well, I think!
Is there a pressure that comes with being in the show when the movie is so renowned?
Of course. People come expecting to literally see the film on stage, so we stay true to it as much as possible. We’re all influenced by the people who originated these roles, but we also try to add our own layer to the character too. Plus, performing on stage is incredibly different to performing in front of a camera. So it’s finding that balance of a respectful nod towards the original 1980s film whilst still reaching the back of the auditorium with slightly bolder, more theatrical acting choices, staging and choreography.
Is there a moment that you’re excited for when you perform in Dirty Dancing at the Dominion Theatre?
I think we all get excited at the very start. It’s a fast-paced show so once act one begins, we don’t really stop!
Why should people come along to see the show?
It’s a feel good, fun show with a lot of heart. It’s something that is familiar to so many, and a story that many can relate to. It isn’t exclusive to the regular theatre goers, it’s a show for everyone and it will hopefully bring a lot of joy to many people!
Where has been your favourite place to perform on stage and why?
The Dominion, of course!
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
It’s got to be seeing the audience on their feet at the end of the show., dancing with you! It’s a wonderful feeling to see that many smiles in one go!
What’s been a funny moment for you on stage? Any mishaps you want to share!?
Oh dear, there’s So many…. Where to start? I recently walked on stage and as soon as I came in to sight, my dress fell down! (A slight wardrobe malfunction but thankfully easily fixed.) I scurried off so quickly that I hoped most of the audience didn’t see! My poor colleagues were left on stage confused for a few seconds… whoops!
Who are your influences and inspirations?
There’s plenty of people and it’s normally the people I know personally and work with. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with many wonderful people over the years, some of which have become some of my best friends in life. Theatre is a fantastic industry for that reason – you’re constantly meeting new people to inspire and motivate you.
Where can people follow your work on socials?
Dirty Dancing is at The Domino Theatre, London, tickets available online.