Interview: Strictly winner Joanne Clifton living her professional dream in Aylesbury

Joanne Clifton in Thoroughly Modern Millie

Joanne Clifton in Thoroughly Modern Millie

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Days after winning the glitter ball trophy on Strictly Come Dancing with her celebrity partner news and sports presenter Ore Oduba, Joanne Clifton was straight into rehearsals for her lead role in the UK tour of  Thoroughly Modern Millie.

There was no time to feel sad about missing the Strictly tour as reigning champion, and no bittersweet feelings. In fact Joanne couldn’t have been happier.

In an exclusive interview prior to her visit to our area she said: “Thoroughly Modern Millie is a massive dream, a lead role in a UK tour is a massive childhood dream of mine, so I was majorly excited to do this. And Ore was in good hands with Karen.”

The Karen she refers to is her sister-in-law, wife of Joanne’s big brother Kevin. The siblings were brought up in Lincolnshire, and took to dancing from an early age as their parents (world and British champions in dance) ran a dance school, writes Heather Jan Brunt.

Joanne said: “I’ve always been very close to my family, we are a very tight knit family. When I won Strictly and Kevin was second, the first thing I said to him was, I’m really sorry, and he just hugged me and said, don’t ever say that again because there is no one in this world that could be prouder of you than me.”

Joanne spent 14 years living in Italy to progress her dance career and has won several titles but she has always wanted to sing and act as well. Although she did not attend a musical theatre school, she has had private lessons in singing and acting.

She has performed in two small fringe productions, Face the Music and Norma Jean The Musical where she played Marilyn Monroe.

She had to audition for Thoroughly Modern Millie and said: “I think they really tested me for it because they knew I’d be on Strictly until late December. Rehearsals virtually started days after Strictly ended, I had a lot of catching up to do, Two days after the Strictly final I had to go into rehearsals for Thoroughly Modern Millie.

“During the audition they gave me five songs to learn in one and half days. They wanted to know how quickly I could learn.”

The show is on tour around the country for six months and as the star Joanne barely leaves the stage.

She said: “I’ve got eight songs, I’m actually singing more than I am dancing.”

Her favourite style of dance is ballroom, particularly the quickstep, and there is a tiny bit at the end of the show, but the main dances are tap with some Charleston and Argentine Tango.

Joanne saw the film starring Julie Andrews years ago but hasn’t watched it recently.

She said: “I don’t tend to watch things that could affect how I would do something. Obviously I know Julie Andrews, and I wasn’t going to compare myself to her. I just came into it as a blank page and tried to present my own way of being Millie and of course the director’s vision.”

The musical comedy tells the story of a flapper named Millie Dillmount who comes to New York City at the height of the Jazz age to find love, work and plenty of excitement.

The show opens at the Wycombe Swan on Monday (March 6)and stays there until Saturday March 11. Tickets from £22, book online at www.wycombeswan.co.uk or call the box office on 01494 512000. The show will be at the Waterside in Aylesbury from Monday March 27 - Saturday April 1. Tickets from £17.50, book online at www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury or call the box office on 0844 871 7607. There are evening and matinee performances at both theatres. Contact the venues for further details.