STAGE star Julian Essex-Spurrier has more to thank Patrick Swayze for than his current role.
Currently playing the lead in An Evening of Dirty Dancing: The Tribute Show, Julian credits the star of the original 1987 movie with inspiring his own career.
"I was really inspired by Patrick Swayze," Julian said.
"When I was young, I used to get absolute hell for dancing, but then Patrick Swayze came along and he was really a manly dancer and he became a bit of a role model."
So Julian, who started his professional music career aged just 11, did not have to think too hard to take on the lead in the tribute show based on Swayze’s most famous role.
"It has fantastic music and great songs and loads of great dancing, so it was a very easy role to say yes to," Julian said.
"I definitely enjoy it. It’s a good fun show."
It is not the first time that Julian has played a character familiar from film on the stage, having appeared in West Side Story, The Rocky Horror Show, Footloose and Saturday Night Fever, where he slipped into John Travolta’s white suit as Tony Manero.
"That was one of the hardest shows ever," Julian said.
"You were on stage almost all the time. It was my equivalent of running a marathon or doing the Olympics."
However, Julian is not quite recreating Swayze’s role as dance instructor Johnny Castle from the film on the Eden Court stage.
"It’s not like other shows I have done," he said.
"It’s not like doing a musical on stage. It’s a celebration of the award-winning soundtrack so it’s kind of like a non-stop party that’s uninterrupted by scenes or anything, so it’s got its own appeal in that respect.
"There’s something beneficial about the audience knowing all the songs and as soon as we start the show, they are up for it. We don’t have to gee them up and that helps with the energy as well."
That energetic audience is predominantly female, but being outnumbered holds no terrors for Julian.
"It’s such a cult thing now and it’s become huge, mainly for a girls’ night out, I guess, but you get quite a lot of partners dragged along. They might not admit it to their mates, but they enjoy it too," he laughed.
"We do get people up on stage as well, so we have to be a bit careful about who we pick sometimes, but generally they’re a lot of fun and we love seeing them getting involved and interacting.
"That’s what it’s all about. We don’t stand on ceremony. It’s all about having fun. And it crosses generational boundaries. People come with their families and their partners — it’s not all a bunch of scary women in a pack!"
The format of the show places more emphasis on Julian’s abilities as a singer and dancer than actor, but Julian, who made his West End debut at the age of 17 in Starlight Express, likes the variety of working in musical theatre.
"I was always into that — I was in a boy band at one point, back in the ’90s, then that went horribly wrong and I went back into theatre again," he said.
"But I’m always going to be involved with music. I do singing gigs and concerts, but I’m an actor as well, so it’s all a bit of a balance. I like to do something creative, and if I’m doing that, then I’m happy."
• An Evening of Dirty Dancing: The Tribute Show, is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, at 7.30pm Wednesday 23rd September. Please note: this production is not affiliated with Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage on tour in the UK and worldwide.