Rock of Ages is an appropriate, if ironically titled, show for Strictly’s Kevin Clifton to debut in.

Having been a pivotal professional dancer on the BBC’s flagship show, notorious in 2018 for winning with Stacey Dooley, as his marriage to fellow dancer Karen broke up, his name has rarely been out of the tabloids.

That he has now left to pursue a career on stage is therefore understandable, especially as his famous sister Joanne did the same a few years ago.

But playing the lead part of Stacee Jaxx in musical Rock Of Ages was a move no one saw coming.

“Actually I’ve talked about joining musical theatre quite a lot over the last couple of years, but everything has been so Strictly focused until now,” Kevin points out.

“In Strictly, I was in my comfort zone, the professional, but I’ve wanted to do musical theatre for so long, that when this opportunity came up I grabbed it with both hands. It’s really exciting.

So why Rock Of Ages in particular? “I first saw the show in 2009 on Broadway, and just loved it. I went back and saw it two or three times, and again when it came to the West End. I’m a big fan!

“Plus, I’ve always been a massive rock fan anyway, and before I was on Strictly I used to fancy myself a bit of a rock star. I used to have long black hair and eye makeup and black fingernails and swanned about thinking I was the Jim Morrison of the ballroom,” he laughs.

Leaving the country’s most popular TV show for the stage must still have been a bit daunting?

“I never thought they’d want me, let alone to play Stacee Jaxx, so when the casting directors suggested I come in and audition for Rock Of Ages, it was just unbelievable,” he remembers.

“It was a bit daunting but they made me feel comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was being judged so I just went for it!”

As for the show, it’s the story of two wannabes that head to California to make it as stars, told through amazing 80s power rock songs. Drew wants to become a rock star, and Sherrie aims to become an actress.

They both end up working at this bar, waiting tables and falling in love.

“However, in walks this guy Stacee Jaxx,” Kevin continues, “who is the front man of a rock band.

“He’s the over the top, flamboyant megastar that all the girls want to be with and all the men want to be, but at the same time he’s a bit of a villain – he’s pretentious and self obsessed, thinking he’s God’s gift to everything and ultimately he disrupts everyone else’s lives!”

Will it be quite fun playing someone a bit villainous? “Oh yeah. I can definitely tap into that – everyone goes through a bad phase. I used to think I was really rock’n’roll when I am the least rock’n’roll person in the world.”

“The fun bit, is that Stacee is so different to how I am on Strictly, and how people are used to seeing me.”

So how did Kevin prepare for the role? “I took singing lessons to strengthen my voice and maintain it. It’s one thing to be able to sing in an audition but quite another to do eight shows a week.

“My first big song is Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’, that’s Stacee’s big moment and I love that song, so I’ve spent a long time practising my breathing, because it’s quite different to dancing. “

Even as a child Kevin loved musical theatre. He remembers watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the TV with his sister Joanne.

“We used our fire guard as the car, and sat behind each other singing. We also used to get my Dad’s snooker cue out of the garage and do Me Ol’ Bamboo,” he laughs.

Oxford Mail:

“I recall coming to London to watch Cats as a child and being so blown away by the whole spectacle of it all. I remember thinking ‘this is amazing’.”

And now here is is, playing his favourite all time musical role, as his stage debut performance.

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“I’ve been obsessed with this show for a few years now so I’m in a show I love. It’s perfect. And I don’t have a problem with tour life, I quite enjoy it. You become a kind of family. It all feels like a bit of adventure.”

But a word of warning - don’t expect ‘Kevin from Grimsby’ as he’s called on Strictly: “It’s me in a completely different light, probably being a bit raunchier than you’re used to. I’m going to look completely different as well, so it will be a lot of fun.”

Nervous then? “You’ve really got to come on and make a massive impact, to get the audience going. Put it this way, it’s not just a case of thinking that I can hold a tune so am able to perform in a musical. There’s much more to it than that.”

Rock Of Ages, New Theatre, Tuesday- Saturday.

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