Dance to many beats

Sarah Tipple, Dirty Dancing
Sarah Tipple, Dirty Dancing

Theatre director Sarah Tipple is certainly a woman who likes a change of pace, switching from Madama Butterfly at the ENO to the stage version of Dirty Dancing coming to Sheffield .

Sheffielder Sarah’s whole CV is pretty eclectic, too, running from street theatre to working at the Young Vic and running her own production company, Barbershopera, which combines two music forms in an offbeat mode of storytelling.

Barbershopera have been featured on Radio 4.

Sarah said: “I’ve been directing for 10 years and I’m still figuring out what my niche is.

“There’s all different ways of telling stories. That’s what I’m into.”

She started directing as a member of a drama society at university in Newcastle before drama school.

“It’s more for me than being on stage. I like to see the bigger picture. You’ve got to have a lot of balls in the air at once,” said Sarah.

Shiregreen-born Sarah, who was a pupil at Tapton School, had a job as an usher at Sheffield Theatres between university and drama school. She managed to grab a quick chat with artistic director Michael Grandage and came away inspired.

“He asked me lots of practical questions. He wasn’t all introspective about my creative impetus; he asked me how I would survive. I was really encouraged by that.”

She also appeared on stage in the musical Annie at the Crucible in Christmas 1994, when Mrs Biggs and Benidorm star Sheridan Smith played the title role.

Sarah’s been involved with the phenomenally popular stage version of Dirty Dancing for several years.

She said: “I first directed this version in 2011. We did it for nearly two years and then went into the West End and it’s just closed there.

“By the time it’s done its most recent round of touring it will have been going for three years.”

There’s a lot of expectation that comes with adapting such a popular film.

“I get the feeling that some people who come and watch the shows have seen the film countless numbers of 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.”

She says her experience helps. “Hopefully it makes me better at understanding what I want. I have to be able to get it across to people from different backgrounds.

“Commercial theatre and opera do have a lot in common on a very practical level. In opera, the understudies have to be of a certain quality because people have to rest that musical instrument.

“When you’ve got a very demanding show, people get injured often and you have to have some really exceptional people to step into those roles so people aren’t disappointed.

“It feels like a train you have to keep moving, an unstoppable machine.”

Dirty Dancing – the Classic Story is at the Lyceum from from Tuesday to May 3. Tickets: 249 6000 or www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk