FORGET about putting Baby in the corner, Katie Eccles will be very much centre stage when the hit musical Dirty Dancing comes to Manchester next week.

Katie took over the lead role of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman halfway through the show’s UK tour back in May - not bad for someone on their first major tour.

“Originally I was what they call a swing on the show, covering the lead, but from May onwards I took over,” she said. “It’s been amazing - an absolute roller coaster - but it’s been incredible.”

Katie, 25, said that her rapid rise from understudy to the show’s star was a particular thrill for her parents.

“I do this because it’s something I love but for your family it’s extra special,” she said. “They have lived through everything that has gone before - all the auditions, all the setbacks - so it’s nice to show them that all their hard work of driving me to ballet when I was four and paying for everything and taking so much time out of their days for me has actually been worthwhile.”

Dirty Dancing is an all-new version of the musical based on the movie starring Patrick Swayze.

With a classic soundtrack of Sixties’ hits, it’s the story of a teenager forced to go on holiday with her parents to a holiday camp only to fall for the bad boy dance instructor.

The revival of the show has been such a success that it is returning to both Manchester and Blackpool before the run ends in September.

“The reaction we have been getting everywhere is amazing,” said Katie. “Sometimes the audience will cheer from the start and you know that they are diehard Dirty Dancing fans.

“It’s a show which has such a connection to people. For me there is no greater feeling than when you come out of the stage door and you meet the fans and they tell you things like Time of My Life was their first dance at their wedding. You realise then how special Dirty Dancing really is.”

As Baby, Katie starts the show as a novice dancer being taught by the hunky Johnny Castle (played by Lewis Griffiths). For someone who first started dancing aged four, Katie admits that initially it was quite hard to adapt and revert to being a novice dancer.

“To start with, it did take me a bit of time to dumb it down a little bit if you like with my dancing,” she said. “On stage you get used to having to be so precise which is definitely not Baby at the start. She’s a bit of a klutz on the dancefloor initially.

“But now that’s good fun. I get to goof around a bit at the start.”

During the show Johnny brings out Baby’s star quality as a dancer culminating in ‘that lift’. While the song (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life plays. Baby leaps into Johnny’s arms and he lifts her effortlessly above his head. It’s the key moment in the show, but Katie said it’s not something which is always at the back of her mind while on stage.

“I used to be a bit like ‘oh, it’s coming up’. After all it is one of the biggest things in the show. Whenever you mention Dirty Dancing that’s what people associate with it.

“It used to be nervewracking and my crazy eyes would come out and I’d wonder ‘are we going to do it?’ But now I know we’re safe, it’s great fun. I’m quite lucky he’s never dropped me yet!

“When we do the lift what I really love is that the whole audience is behind you. It all goes quiet just before but as soon he’s got me above his head it goes crazy. Everyone is on their feet which is incredible. That’s what you do this job for, to give people that enjoyment. It’s brilliant.”

Dirty Dancing is one of those shows which does have a special hold over the audience

“I’m slightly too young to have grown up with the film but everyone knows that film,” said Katie.

“You’ve got the music, the story, Patrick Swayze it’s got everything you ever want in a movie and we now portray that on stage.

“The story is the same as the movie but it goes into more depth as far as my character is concerned. You do see a journey of someone who at the start is 17 and very naive but then becomes a woman during the course of the show. I think it has elements which everyone can relate to

“Everyone goes through what Baby experiences as a teenager to some degree. They have either had arguments with their parents or had that person they have had a crush on who perhaps isn’t right for them.

“I’ve never had a problem with my parents or with sibling rivalry so I’m quite lucky in that regard.”

But she added mysteriously: “For me it’s the guy thing - everyone has fallen for someone who isn’t right for them haven’t they?”

Dirty Dancing - the Classic Story on stage, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, July 18 to Saturday, July 22, details from 0844 871 3019 and Blackpool Opera House, Tuesday, August 29 to Saturday, September 2, details from 0844 856 1111