James D Smith is no stranger to Adelaide. He performed the role of Boq in the Australian tour of Wicked in 2011, presented his own concerts at The Promethean in Adelaide and supported Pete Murray and The Whitlams at the Closing Concert of the 2013 Adelaide Fringe Festival.
More recently, James D Smith has been touring the country with the Helpmann Award nominated hit musical Dirty Dancing, but when the show moves to Adelaide, Smith is indeed set to have the time of his life when he takes over the role of Billy Kostecki.
Smith has always been a huge fan of Dirty Dancing and admits he’s probably watched the movie a hundred times or more – which is probably not unlike many of the fans who flock to see this crowd-pleasing show. Smith has been understudying the role of Billy for Mark Vincent and has already played the role at least fifty times whenever Vincent has had other commitments to attend.
It means Smith will commence the role in Adelaide already very familiar with Billy. He says it will be great to make the character, and this dream role, his own.
“I think I’ve just been lucky because Mark Vincent’s been doing his own gigs every now and then, so I’ve been on,” says Smith, who is very quick to add his respect and praise for Vincent, describing him as a very down to earth and nice guy who has been incredibly supportive of Smith whenever he has had to fill in as Billy.
Smith says it is very rare for a lead performer to be so excited and supportive of their understudy, “He’s such a nice guy and has such a beautiful voice.”
It’s true – Mark Vincent does have a beautiful voice. It’s also a totally different voice to that of James D Smith.
“He’s classical and I’m more rock/pop/musical theatre so I’m not trying to sound anything like him, which is a bonus for me!” says Smith.
Now that Smith will take over the role, his portrayal of Billy will be pretty much what he’s already been doing thoughout the tour as the understudy.
“We all interpret a character in our own way and I think one of the most important things is just to find the truth in the character and that’s what I always try to do … find the realness of the character so the audience can relate.”
Smith describes Billy as being a very kind-hearted young lad who works at the Kellermans. He plays a pivotal role in the story because he introduces Baby to his cousin Johnny. Billy is also the character who gets to help Baby carry the watermelons – an iconic moment in the story. Smith has never dropped one of the watermelons but admits he’s freaking out about it every single time!
“They’re not real, but they’re pretty heavy … and I’m short so I feel like the watermelons are bigger than me!” he laughs.
Smith also gets the biggest singing role in the show. His favourite moment in Dirty Dancing is getting to perform the beautiful ‘In the Still of the Night’.
“I’m so lucky – they’re the best songs in the show! I get to sing ‘In the Still of the Night’ and ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ – two of the biggest songs of the show.”
Smith says ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life’ feels more like a rock concert than a musical. He explains the audiences know the movie so well and they know what to expect and are ready for a fun night. Sometimes audience members will even call out comments such as, “We love you Johnny!”
“It’s great for us to be part of that excitement,” shares Smith. “You can feel the energy coming from the audience.”
Of course the biggest audience reaction comes when Johnny says that iconic line: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
“Everyone is just waiting for that line!” says Smith.
Smith says the audiences have been getting better and better with each season as they’ve toured the country. From October it will be Adelaide’s turn to experience Dirty Dancing. You can be sure James D Smith will be having the time of his life!
New tickets are on sale today due to popular demand!
Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: From 2nd October
Performance Times: Wed-Sat 8pm, matinees Wed at 1pm and Sat at 2pm, Sunday 1pm and 6pm
Price: Tickets from $59.90*
Bookings: bass.net.au or 131 246 or www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/shows/dirty-dancing/
Groups 8+ save 08 8205 2220
*An additional transaction fee and/or a credit/debit payment processing fee may apply