Maddie Peat exudes excitement and energy. The 20-year-old dancer is clearly thrilled to play one of the leading roles, Penny Johnson, in Dirty Dancing.
Fresh from last year’s So You Think You Can Dance, Peat was working five days a week at a juice bar when she received a call out of the blue asking her to audition for the show. Two days later she got the role. Rehearsals began the next day.
Stepping into the show three weeks into the Sydney season was a challenge. After an intensive month of rehearsals, Peat only had one rehearsal on stage with Kurt Phelan (lead man, Johhny Castle) before she was in front of an audience. Playing a lead. In her first musical. Moreover, Peat has never danced ballroom before, nor has she spent a lot of time away from home. Even touring is novel, “I’m surprised that I’m enjoying being a hermit!,” she says. But she is having the time of her life. “I love performing, so getting to do that twice a day- you’re doing what you want to do. Our job is to make people happy”.
She also loves how engaged the audiences are, although this can add pressure to the performers. “People come in and know the lines- you can’t get away with missing any of them”. She laughs, ‘They have expectations of what it will be like”. With this in mind, Peat watched the movie multiple times to create her Penny. She describes the character as, “Hard done by, but she’s also really strong and independent. She wants to sort out her own issues. She’s been around”.
I asked Peat what audiences wouldn’t guess about the show or the cast. “Well”, she pauses, “we all look very different without our wigs. I had trouble recognising everyone at first. We go onstage and look cool and glamorous, but we’re really daggy. We’re just good actors!”.
Fans of the movie are sure to love the stage show, but what would Peat say to sell the show to someone who isn’t familiar with it? She has a succinct response; “Do you like to have fun? Dirty Dancing. Now”.
Dirty Dancing is currently playing at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre until July 19. For more information, visit the website: QPAC – Dirty Dancing.