Strictly winner Kevin Clifton on heading to Sunderland Empire in Rock of Ages musical
Strictly star Kevin Clifton is switching the glitterball for an air guitar in musical Rock of Ages. The Guide spoke to him about the tour.
Q: What is it like switching from Strictly Come Dancing training sessions, and the high of winning the show with Stacey Dooley, to taking on the role of Stacee Jaxx in ‘Rock of Ages’?
A: It’s really exciting because I’ve wanted to do musical theatre for so long. I’ve talked about it quite a lot over the last couple of years, but everything has been so dance and Strictly focused, so when this opportunity came up I wanted to grab it with both hands. I feel like I’m switching roles from Strictly, as there I’m in my comfort zone, I’m the professional and Stacey is the celebrity trying to learn to dance whereas now I’m figuratively and literally becoming Stacee! Actually, one of my favourite facts is that I obviously just danced with Stacey Dooley on Strictly Come Dancing, and her full name is actually Anastacia Jaclyn Dooley, and her nickname is Stacey Jacs, so it seems like it was all meant to be!
Q: What made you want to be involved with Rock of Ages?
A: I first saw the show in 2009 on Broadway, when I was in New York with Burn The Floor, and Rock of Ages was on the next street over. I just loved it and went back and saw it two or three more times and then saw it again when it came to the West End. I’m a big fan! 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 make-up and black fingernails and used to swan about thinking I was the Jim Morrison of the ballroom! I never thought they’d want me to be involved in the show, let alone play Stacee Jaxx, so when they suggested I come in and audition it was just unbelievable.
Q: How was the audition?
A: I think it went well! It was a bit daunting to be auditioning as a musical theatre performer, rather than as a singer. I was in Dirty Dancing The Musical before but that was primarily a dancing role. However, the director and choreographer, Nick, has an amazing ability to make you feel immediately comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was being judged so I just went for it!
Q: Could you tell us a little about the show?
A: It’s the story of two wannabes that have headed to California to make it as stars, all told with the help of amazing 80s power rock songs. Drew wants to become a rock star, and Sherrie was 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 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!
Q: Is it quite fun playing someone a bit villainous?
A: Oh yeah. I can definitely tap into the pretentious nature of him – I think I used to be a bit like that, thinking I was a rock star when I was just a ballroom dancer, everyone goes through that sort of phase a bit, though! I used to think I was really rock ‘n’ roll when I am the least rock ‘n’ roll person in the world!
It’s fun to play Stacee as he’s so different to how I am on Strictly, and how people are used to seeing me. Although having said that, ‘Rock of Ages’ is just as flamboyant as Strictly, and has the same sense of fun, although in a different way!
Q: Do you have a favourite song you look forward to performing?
My first big song is Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’, that’s Stacee’s big moment and I love that song. It’s his big opening in the show and you’ve really got to come on and make a massive impact with the audience, really get them going and show what kind of character Stacee is.
Q: What are the challenges of performing this style of music?
A: I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to breathe differently as a singer than I do as a dancer actually. As dancers we take shallow, short bursts of air as we move, whereas when you’re singing and hitting these big notes you want to take in large amounts of air quite quickly and from quite low down. I’m training myself to be more conscious of my breathing and getting used to it. Otherwise I might run out of breath on stage! You don’t realise all these things until you start learning about them and it’s not just a case of thinking I can hold a tune therefore I can do a musical, there’s much more to it than that.”
•Rock of Ages is at Sunderland Empire from July 23-27. Tickets from 0844 871 3022.