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Well, hello young man!

It's a Dirty (Dancing) job, but someone's got to do it. Muddy meets Michael O'Reilly, sultry star of Dirty Dancing. Catch him at Wycombe Swan next week - but don't throw watermelons at him, he doesn't like it.

Michael O’Reilly is the latest young actor to take on the iconic role of Johnny in Dirty Dancing, which comes to the Wycombe Swan from Mon 4 – Sat 9 Feb. A mere 21 (blessssss!) he’s from Devon but has already chalked up a CV that includes working with Matthew Bourne as well as being *cough* part of the Magic Mike dance troupe on the Britain’s Got Talent final last year (remember?!). Muddy caught up with him mid-rehearsal.


This is your first professional job, isn’t it?

Yes, I only graduated from theatre school last summer so it’s the most incredible thing to be in a show that has such a strong fanbase. There’s so much energy in the audience every night.


You, young whippersnapper, weren’t even born when the movie came out – did you get how iconic Dirty Dancing is for a whole generation of women?

I knew my mum was a massive fan of the film but I didn’t watch it all the way through until the audition – and didn’t quite realise what a big deal it was until we actually started performing the show. I came out the door on the opening night and there was a gang of about 50 Irish women, screaming and throwing watermelons at me.


Ouch. That must hurt.

It’s not nice, I’m not going to lie. We sell toy plastic watermelons at the front of the house but they had a real one that they asked me to sign.


How do the audiences respond to the show?

There are moments like the line “I carried a watermelon” that they go wild for. And with “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” they all know it’s coming and start cheering and screaming out the line, and then other members of the audience will shush them. It’s very funny.  I was nervous on the first night because I realised that there were hundreds of people out there who’ve all watched the film god knows how many times and who will know the lines better than I do. But you’ve got to take the nerves and run with them.

Do women throw their knickers at you?

Not yet – maybe they need to up their game a bit?! We get a lot of people waiting at the stage door and after the show, when we go to local bars, there will often be women there who’ve been to the show. So I end up signing T-shirts.


That famous lift – have you ever dropped Baby?

Touch wood, it’s never yet gone wrong. There is a certain technique and once Kira [Malou, who plays Baby] is up there we have a millisecond to adjust our balance if we need to. So far, so good.


Have you taken a selfie next to the theatre billboard with your face on it?

I have, yeah! In Gateshead Kira and I did the lift in front of the billboard that pictures us doing the lift. A woman passing by offered to take the photo, and she said, You guys are really good at doing that lift. You should think about being dancers or something. When we told her it was actually us on the billboard she couldn’t believe it.


When did you first know you wanted to be a dancer?

I didn’t get into it until I was 16 so really quite late. I played a lot of rugby  and thought that was what I was going to do. But I took dance A level – many because I thought I’d get to doss around but I had a great teacher and loved it. I started doing lots of auditions and ended up working with Matthew Bourne on a production. He’s really opened my eyes to dance, he’s been a huge inspiration.


That’s an unusual segway for a teenage boy – from rugby to dance.

Yeah, it’s an interesting time right now with everyone talking about acceptance and being open minded but the truth is there’s a lot of stigma when it comes to male dancers. So I think there’s something empowering and strong about a young rugby player who turns around and says, I’m going to be a dancer. But there’s lots of transferable skills – it’s all about working hard and discipline.


Who’s the most memorable person you’ve met in your career so far?

Channing Tatum –I was a huge fan of the Step Up films when I was younger so when I go to work with him last year it was a dream come true. I performed with the Magic Mike guys on the Britain’s Got Talent final l last year. I love how he’s made dance cool for guys. He rocked up out of his trailer and said, hey Mike, how are you doing? He remembered me – and my name – from the audition ages before.


I imagine this role attracted a lot of lady attention?

What with all that topless dancing?! Not at all! I had this moment right in front of the judge’s table where I had to dive to the floor and then do a thrust so you couldn’t miss me and I actually didn’t tell anyone I was going to be on TV so after aired I was absolutely bombarded with messages, with people sending me photos they’d taken of their TV screen.


Finally, why should Muddy readers come see you in the show? Give me your 10 second sales pitch?

If you love the film and are fans of the music, come along and be part of the world. You’ll love it. But please don’t throw your knickers or watermelons at me.


Can’t make any promises, Michael! 


Dirty Dancing is at the Wycombe Swan from Mon 4 – Sat 9 Feb 2019

Interview @Kerry_Potter

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