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Fe-Fi-Fo Fiona

Were you a fan of the original Shrek movie, Joanne? 
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 didn't let anybody speak! There was the director, Nick Winston - who I’d already worked with before - 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, 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. 

How have you researched the role ? 
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 that 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 a very 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 at 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. 

Shrek The Musical shows at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, from Tues 30 January to Sun 4 February