KIRA Malou didn’t imagine that as a 17 year-old when her heart was being broken into tiny pieces the experience would, one day, turn out to offer a positive.

“But it has,” says the Southampton-born actress who began professional life as a dancer, smiling.

“Like most girls I was mesmerised and I can tap into that. Now I can channel those feelings on stage.

“My character is going through that full range of emotional turmoil.”

Kira’s stage role is one of the best in musical theatre.

Next week she arrives in Glasgow to star in Dirty Dancing as Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, played by Jennifer Gray in the 1987 film.

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Baby is the cardigan-wearing idealist who spends summer at an upmarket holiday camp with her older sister and parents.

It’s there she meets the drama queens, the dance staff and falls for resident grump Johnny Castle, who was played by Patrick Swayze in the movie.

We know the rest; for some odd reason, Baby has to step in and become Johnny’s dance partner.

And gradually they come to hold each other a little closer than the dancing suggests.

Kira can’t quite believe she’s landed the role in the show with musical belters such as Hungry Eyes, Hey! Baby, Do You Love Me? and the climactic (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

“I was in the show two years ago as a dancer and managed to go on as holiday cover for the actress who played Baby,” she explains.

“ I enjoyed the acting so much I went along to acting course, read a lot and tried to prepare myself.

“When the next production of Dirty Dancing came along I was asked if I wanted to cover for Baby again, along with other dance roles.

“But I auditioned far better than expected and was offered the role.”

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She becomes excited as she recalls her feelings.

“I was so completely taken aback, and over the moon.

“Now, I’ve fallen in love with acting, the idea of playing different characters.”

The acting lessons, the stint in musical theatre college, the extra effort had paid off.

“You have to keep learning,” says Kira.

What’s fascinating about the role is that Kira, a trained dancer, now has to convince as someone who can’t dance that well. Initially.

“Yes, I have so much fun with this. Normally, I have to dance as well as possible, now I have to do bad dancing.”

She laughs; “I’ve actually been told to turn the bad dancing down a bit. I’ve been having too much fun not doing it right.”

But of course, Baby comes good and dances sublimely with Johnny, managing a big lift and lifting her own heart in the process.

“I get to show off a bit in the end,” she grins.

Is Kira at all like Baby, a grower whose cardie comes off and the shy girl becomes sexy in a tight vest?

“Well, she’s actually quite tomboy-ish, and really interesting. The story is set in 1963 and she’s political and wants to enter the Peace Corps. It’s great to play her.”

She adds; “I’m not quite so political, and it’s hard to keep up with politics these days, isn’t it?”

It certainly is. Kira already knew the Dirty Dancing story. She watched the film on video as a schoolgirl, with her mum.

“I loved it. It was my mum’s favourite film and I loved the music and the dancing, although my mum had to cover my eyes when it got to the sexy bits.

“But I think this story is so relatable. And it’s a real feelgood experience.”

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Kira danced from an early age, ballet and tap, and she loved it.

“When I was about seven I saw the big girls go off to dance school and the thought entered my head I could make a career of this.

“From that moment, I never saw myself not becoming a professional dancer.

“And having watched so much theatre, I knew I wanted to be on stage.”

She adds; “When I graduated I knew it was going to be hard and it is. But when you finally get the job you’ve wanted it means so much.”

Many actors bemoan touring theatre. Not Kira.

“It’s all going to end too quickly. We finish in August and I don’t want it to. It’s such an amazing production and we all get on so well. It’s not one I want to get out of , to be honest.”

What? You don’t want to leave the backstage bitching behind? The divas you’ve had to contend with? The upstaging? “Well, all of that does happen,” she says, laughing. “It’s such a competitive industry. But not in this production. Everyone is so lovely.”

What of the boy who broke her heart? Did she ever have her revenge?

“Well, I’m in this show and I think that’s revenge in itself,” she says, giggling.

Not half. He gets to see a smart, sexy woman on stage who can dance as dirty as a boiler worker’s overalls. He’ll be kicking himself.

“Hopefully,” she says, laughing.

Dirty Dancing, The Classic Story Told, the King’s Theatre, May 20-25.