Hi Joanne. Were you a fan of the original Shrek movie?
I just loved it! And then I went to see the musical on one of the previous tours and loved that.
What was the audition like?
I wanted it so much that I went into the audition and I didn't let anybody speak! There was the director who I already had worked with before, Nick Winston, there was the casting director, the musical director and the producer. Now I hadn't met these other people but I didn’t let them speak! I sat at the table and said, ‘Right, this is why I need this job: 1) Sutton Foster played Princess Fiona on Broadway and she’s my idol; 2) I have auditioned for it before and didn't get it and I'm a very competitive person; and 3) if ever there was a princess in any film or fable, the one I would relate to most is Princess Fiona’. I said, ‘Without sounding too full of myself, I am a world champion ballroom dancer, meaning long dresses with feathers, looking all elegant like a princess. But here's the thing: I'm from Grimsby, I find trumping really funny. This is why I relate to Princess Fiona.’
Where were you when you found out you’d got the part?
I have my own segment on BBC Two, It Takes Two, which is a spin-off of Strictly. I was there and I was getting my makeup done and the email came through, and I was like, ‘Wow!’ And then I wasn't allowed to tell anyone because it was all under wraps.
How have you researched the role of Princess Fiona?
I’ve watched the film and have been listening to Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona on the soundtrack and watching clips of different actors doing the role on stage. But I’m stopping doing that now so I’m able to create my own take on it.
How are you feeling about being transformed into an ogre in the show?
I had my fitting for Fiona’s ogre body and hands and I’ve had to cut my nails short because my long ones won’t work for the quick change into my ogre suit.
People who know you from Strictly may not realise that you’re also an accomplished musical theatre actor – how do the two disciplines compare?
I have a really strong work ethic from my time in ballroom dancing. I absolutely hate having a night off sick – I have to be on death's door to go off sick.
What I love about the musical theatre world, which is different from my dancing world, is that nobody is bigger than the show. Coming away from the stress and the pressure of competing in the ballroom world is so refreshing for me. It's teamwork in a musical: we've all got our separate roles and of course we want the lead ones, but even if you're not a lead, you're just as important because the show is the main goal. And it just makes me happy! I love that we have to go on and do the show to an audience of however many people and if anything goes wrong, we have to carry on. I love the adrenaline of that.
What do you do to relax when touring?
I love escape rooms so I’m going to get a Shrek team together and get t-shirts made. I want us to get on the leader board at escape rooms in every place on the tour.
You’re touring to some wonderful venues all over the country with the show, many of which you’ve played at on other tours, some of which will be new. How does it feel to be returning to…[insert venue here], and where are you most excited to be visiting for the first time?
Plymouth is where I met my boyfriend. My housemate was performing in The Buddy Holly Story and I went to their gala night in Plymouth. My boyfriend was playing Buddy Holly and we saw each other at the after party and the rest is history.
Manchester is where my boyfriend and I plan to move to eventually. We both love it, we both love the theatres and we’re both Man City supporters.
Dublin’s just fun, isn’t it? It’ll be fun nights out after the show.
I did a ballroom dancing show at the Beach Ballroom.
Dartford’s near where I live so I’m looking forward to being able to stay at home during our time there.
That’s where we’ll be for my 40th birthday. There’s a BrewDog pub right by the theatre where you can do shuffleboard so we’ll do that as a cast, I hope.
When I was in Eastbourne on tour with The Rocky Horror Show the whole cast got told off because we all got sunburnt hanging out on the beach, which meant you could see tan lines on stage.
I love Yorkshire wraps, where they wrap up a roast dinner in a Yorkshire pudding.
Blackpool is my second home. We would go twice a year since I started dancing when I was four years old to compete there, both in the Tower and in the Winter Gardens. My parents and grandparents were dancers so there’s so much family history in Blackpool. I used to go down the pier with my nan, we used to play bingo, I know everything about Blackpool. We’re there with Shrek for three weeks and I’m taking Antony and Brandon and James and all my other friends in the cast to the Tower Ballroom and we’re going to dance on the ballroom floor and then have afternoon tea.
The Kings is one of my favourite theatres, the people who work on the stage door there are just so nice. It’s actually where I popped a calf muscle in Flash Dance but I still love it.
There’s a great pub that everybody goes to opposite the stage door of the Empire. And I really recommend the Beatles tour, I’ll do that again.
The Mayflower is where I saw Shrek the Musical and realised I wanted to play Fiona.
Hull is the closest tour stop to where I’m from in Grimsby so I think there will be a bus load coming from Cliftons Dance Academy, where I trained.