Lift-off as Sarah corners market in directing Baby

Dirty Dancing  -- The Classic Story
Dirty Dancing -- The Classic Story
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Sheffielder Sarah Tipple’s been having the time of her life, directing the stage version of Dirty Dancing!

She may only have been three years old when the film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey came out in 1987 but Sarah loves it.

She said: “It was my first 15 film! I convinced my mum to let me watch it when I was under age at 13.”

Sarah’s still a big fan. “It’s brilliant. It’s a great film. I took my husband with me to watch it when I first did it. It even got him a bit.”

She added: “Obviously it’s a love story and coming of age tale.

“The storyline with her dad is very moving.

“It’s like my relationship with my father. That appealed to me almost as much as the storyline with Johnny in some ways.

“I do think it’s a great story – so much of it’s told through dance. It translates to the stage so well.”

Now living in London with a husband and baby son, Sarah has a busy and varied career in stage direction, working on plays and operas for top companies like English National Opera and the Young Vic.

She has been working on Dirty Dancing for three years now, directing the version that has been on tour and in the West End.

Sarah added: “It’s funny thinking it’s been such a big thing of my life.

“Everybody’s heard of it. It’s not like directing a little Austrian play that no-one’s ever heard of.”

It’s a big responsibility adapting such a well-loved film. Sarah said: “I get the feeling that some people who come and watch the shows have seen the film countless times.

“They know it all. When you take something to your heart in that way, it’s quite difficult to accept someone’s interpretation of it.

“You have to be careful that you honour that.

“I watch the movie a lot trying to work out what makes it appeal to people.

“Sitting in the theatre watching people is really helpful for that.”

It’s in good hands, though. “People have come out of affection for the film. The stipulation is it should be the classic story on the stage, with all those most loved moments of joyful dance.”

Sarah said: “It’s a really nice show to work on. The audience come ready to have a good time.

“In Glasgow they were on their feet from the word go. The encore got people having a bit of a dance and people were singing along.

“It uses pretty much all the music on the film and the music is brilliant.

“There’s quite a lot of shouting and clapping when Johnny comes on at the end. It’s nice to sit in the audience and see you’ve contributed to the reaction.”

Sarah has really enjoyed working on a dance show for the first time.

She said: “The dancing is phenomenal. I’m privileged to work with incredible dancers. Telling a story through that is fascinating for me as well because I am not a dancer.

“I’m used to telling stories through singing and music so it adds another element.

“It’s a totally joyful theatre moment when Baby goes up in the air. You know that in the theatre it might not work. A boy is genuinely having to lift a girl over his head.

“There’s no trickery and you can’t do it five times like in a movie. It has to happen at the right time in the show.

“By the end, if we’ve done our jobs right, the audience are really on our characters’ sides.

“It’s triumphant when the lift is there. I’ve only seen it not happen once. That’s the joy of working in the theatre.”

Sarah’s stepmum will be in the audience celebrating her birthday with a group of friends when the show comes to the Lyceum next week.

Sarah was born in Shiregreen but has lived in several areas of the city.

She is still a regular visitor, catching up with friends and family including brother Andrew, who lives in Rotherham. Sarah is determined that her baby should have some northern influence in his life.

As a child Sarah appeared on stage in Sheffield.

She was in Annie at the Crucible in Christmas 1994, when Mrs Biggs and Benidorm star Sheridan Smith played the title role.

Sarah played the tallest orphan, Duffy, even though she is only 5ft 3in tall.

She remembers: “I had a dreadful haircut but it was such good fun.

“I couldn’t believe they picked me to do it.”

Later on at Newcastle University she realised that acting wasn’t really for her when she started directing as part of a student drama group.

Sarah said: “I’m so chuffed the show’s going to Sheffield. It feels like a real achievement, particularly as I didn’t start off in a very privileged part of the city.

“I came from a relatively ordinary place.”

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story is at the Lyceum from next Tuesday until May 3.

Tickets: call 0114 249 6000 or go online at www.sheffiekldtheatres.co.uk