Dirty Dancing star trades California for Sunderland

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FOR a theatre star from California, Sunderland seems a very long way from home.

Yet actress Jill Winternitz is relishing in her very first trip to the north east.

Having landed the lead role of Baby Houseman in the UK tour of Dirty Dancing, Jill is currently taking to the stage at the Sunderland Empire.

“This is the first time I have been to Sunderland,” she said, “I love how it is so close to the ocean, the water is beautiful and it is a very pretty city.”

With performances in Leeds, Birmingham and Norwich already under her belt, Sunderland is her fourth stop on the big UK tour.

“The theatre is beautiful,” she added, “It is very old fashioned and grand and I am enjoying performing there. The audience are keen and very warm. They know all the famous lines and it is a lot of fun.”

The 25-year-old American, who trained at the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, is now staring alongside Paul-Michael Jones as Johnny and Nicky Griffiths as Penny.

“The tour is going brilliantly. It has been going for over a year now but I only started when we reached Leeds. It has been wonderful, it has been packed every night which I am grateful about and everyone gets on really well,” she added.

“I have fallen in love with the character. It is a great part for an actress and I am loving every moment of it.

“Of course there is a bit of pressure on us to perform as the audience expect us to be Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. I do try to take the spirit of Jennifer and I am inspired by her, but I have to make it my own as I am not her.”

For fans of the film it might be hard to comphrehend, but Jill had never even seen the film before she got the audition.

“When I told my friends about the audition they were full of excitement and I got caught up with all the excitement, so I sat down and watched the film with my boyfriend and absolutely loved it. In a way it’s kind of cool that I had never seen the film as it has become a new favourite movie for me.”

Jill is performing in Dirty Dancing at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, October 6.

To book tickets call 0844 871 3022.