We hear from Strictly dancer Joanne Clifton about her transformation into Princess Fiona for the Shrek tour, her love of jigsaw puzzles and more. 

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, Nick Winston, who I had worked with before, the casting director, the musical director and the producer.

I hadn’t met the other people but I didn’t let them speak. I sat at the table and said, ‘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.’

Shrek the Musical is currently on tour, booking until 31st August, 2024. Theatres include Milton Keynes, Hull New Theatre, the Theatre Royal in Nottingham and The Alexandra in Birmingham. For dates and tickets click here

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 make-up 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.

What do you hope groups coming to see Shrek will take away from the trip to the theatre?

Their bellies will hurt from laughing, their faces will ache from smiling and their hearts will be warm and happy from the message the show brings: Accept yourself and everyone for who they are! 

Shrek The Musical, UK Tour

Source: Marc Brenner

The show features the classic songs including I’m A Believer, Big Bright Beautiful World and I Know It’s Today

Tell us about your take on Princess Fiona?

I’ve been told my Fiona is very feisty and holds her own against big old Shrek, Donkey and anyone else around her. 

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.

I’ve been told my Fiona is very feisty and holds her own against big old Shrek, Donkey and anyone else around her. 

Shrek The Musical, UK Tour

Source: Marc Brenner

Brandon Lee Sears (Donkey), Antony Lawrence (Shrek) and Joanne Clifton (Fiona) are among the Shrek cast. 

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.

What’s your ‘must-have’ item when you’re on the road?

Jigsaw puzzles. I’m fifth in Britain at jigsaws. I do one a week. Also Lego and knitting.

To find out more about the musical, see here