IN the 2011 comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love, Ryan Gosling plays a Casanova who seduces women by inviting them to perform the final number in the classic movie Dirty Dancing.
Gosling would stand at one end of the room, pretending to be Patrick Swayze. His woman friend, playing Jennifer Grey's role, would streak across the room from the other end, leap into his arms, and get gracefully lifted above his head. After Gosling successfully performs what's known as "the lift", the woman instantly falls for him and goes to bed with him. Easy peasy.
In real life, however, "the lift" is actually really hard for a woman to do. Actor Gareth Bailey has played Swayze's role for five months in the stage musical adaptation of Dirty Dancing. And every now and then, he gets approached by women in bars who ask him to do the lift.
"Usually, it's an epic fail. They'd run towards me and then ... it stops there. They can't lift themselves high enough for me to take over and lift them. They need to be strong to actually lift their own body up - they can't just depend on me to lift them up," says Bailey, who just happened to be wearing a tank top that revealed biceps big enough to carry two women.
The fact that Bailey gets such requests at all, and the fact that the stage musical plays to full houses around the world since it premiered in Sydney a decade ago, proves that Dirty Dancing - at 26 - still has legs. Those legs are why tickets to the musical, which opens here at Marina Bay Sands in May, are selling well. In fact, when the musical played in London between 2004 and 2008, tickets sold out six months in advance - all thanks to the built-in audience comprising fans of the movie, as well as anyone longing for a slice of nostalgia.
After all, part of the movie's appeal is its 1960s setting and soundtrack. The musicians topping the charts then included the Ronettes, The Drifters and The Blow Monkeys. For baby boomers, songs like Be My Baby and You Don't Own Me were the anthems of their youth. Unexpectedly, it was baby boomers who flocked to the movie when it opened in 1987 - helping to spin it into a hit.
The other reason for the movie's appeal is the "dirty dancing" itself. The characters don't just shake their booties, they bump and grind their pelvises against one another, as if their bottoms were sewn together. Grey's character comes of age after she starts taking dance lessons from Swayze and falls in love with him. Dirty Dancing raised eyebrows and temperatures around the world, as well as ticket sales and attendance in dance classes. In short, it was a phenomenon.
Still, why should anyone who loves the movie and has watched it countless times be bothered with the stage adaptation? How could the stage adaptation possibly top the movie?
Lead actress Bryony Whitfield, who plays Grey's role, says the stage version is extremely faithful to the movie, with nearly every line and scene taken straight off the screen. She insists: "All the classic songs you hear in the movie's soundtrack will be sung on stage by a live band that's been incorporated into the story. Every song from Hungry Eyes to I've Had The Time Of My Life will be belted out live, and that's better than listening to the soundtrack."
Now, with Swayze dead and Grey no longer in the news, there's perhaps no one better than the stage actors to answer the last question, which is, what do the actors think happened to the lovebirds after the movie ended? Did they call it quits, realising it was just a summer fling? Or did they stay in love, get married and have very limber kids?
Whitfield replies: "Whether they get married or not is irrelevant. The fact is, they've learnt something from each other and become stronger people. And at the end of the day, what girl doesn't want to go a resort and meet a hunky man who teaches her how to be a woman? That girl's been taught. She's been taught." Ahem, touché.
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage plays at the Grand Theatre, Marina Bay Sands from May 24 to June 16. Tuesday to Friday: 8pm, Saturday & Sunday: 2pm & 8pm. Tickets $55 to $175 from Sistic.