Emma O'Neill

"Persistence, patience and passion are just what will drive you to achieve" Gareth Bailey and Roseanna Frascona on Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing

It’s quite rare to find two actors that are almost identical to the characters they portray, but if that was ever the case, it would be with Roseanna Frascona and Gareth Bailey who play leads Baby and Johnny. 

Roseanna attended Oxford University and graduated with a degree in English, and it was there the world of acting really opened up to her.

She said: “I was so interested in stories and what was going on in the world, the way that different people think. I think that the opportunities I received at university – getting involved with the profession in workshops and getting to do a showcase at the end or tour to Japan – suddenly made me think they seem to be giving me these sort of opportunities, maybe I actually could do this as my job.”

Gareth on the other hand was almost as opposite as Johnny is to Baby. He struggled in high school with dyslexia and it was a last minute decision to attend a Saturday drama class which handed him a life line.

He said: “I’d always struggled with school and the education system, the more academic side of things – so I gravitated towards the arts. My sister was going to go to a Saturday drama school but on the day decided not to. So I went along, met a fantastic group of lads who are still my main circle of friends and I think that’s massively part of the reason that held me to performing. I started looking into acting and taking it a bit more seriously and looking at the opportunities that could come my way if I dove into this head first.”

After attending drama school, Gareth worked on other musicals before joining the cast of Dirty Dancing in 2011 as Robbie Gould, touring the show to South Africa before joining the West End cast as Johnny.

He added: “I was excited about it, this role and the opportunity to step into such an iconic character. I think it’s those, if there are pressures or expectations, those are the things I’ve quite enjoyed because it’s kept me focused and driven. It effectively kept me on top of my game because you’re aware people know this story this character, so it keeps you motivated and focused.”

Whereas Roseanna had a slightly different experience with the character. Having never seen the film, she wasn’t quite aware of what she was getting herself in to. But she feels like that gave her opportunity to love the character on her own terms and not the film.

She said: “For me, what I love the most about Baby is that she’s such a real person. She’s got so many sides to her – Baby really, genuinely cares about other people. It’s not just another girl who falls in love, she’s someone who cares about all these political issues and wants people from different social classes to have all the same opportunities. That is what makes her so likeable as a person.”

Dirty Dancing

For Rosanna, her struggles came with the dancing: “I’d just come out of drama school, but a place where you only do one or two dance classes a week.” Feeling a bit lost, Rosanna relied on the professional dancers in the show, another way Rosanna found herself identifying with Baby.

She added: “The girls would give me little tips and a helping hand as trained dancers and I’m incredibly grateful. We do all sort of look after each other, and I’ve been incredibly grateful, not only to have a fantastic team behind me to sort of guide me through my dance section of the show, but also the wonderful fact that Baby herself is learning in much the same way that I did in the beginning.”

Both actors have been right at the beginning where a lot of soon-to-be graduates find themselves now. Gareth has a very simple motto when it comes to achieving those dreams: “Persistence, patience and passion are just what will drive you to achieve. I’ve come to realise you have to be persistent in what you’re after, to be patient in when you achieve it and to be passionate about it. And I think if you’re not aware of why you want to achieve it and where it is inside of you, you’re going to be on a lost road.”

Rosanna built on that, saying: “Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart. Not just a little bit of it – all of it. Because it will require that amount of commitment, passion – if you love it enough, you will be pursuing it in the best way you possibly can. You’ve got to know exactly why you want to do it.”

Dirty Dancing will be on at the Sunderland Empire Theatre until Saturday February 14.

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