THE last time Diana Vickers was in York, she was being called a slut by all and sundry.

Fear not, it was all in the line of duty of playing the suddenly sexually awakened Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, on tour at the Grand Opera House in April last year. "Slut" is the customary audience slur in response to every mention of Janet's name, dammit.

From Tuesday, Diana returns to the Cumberland Street theatre in another musical, the new Son Of A Preacher Man, built around the enduring Dusty Springfield songbook.

"It's a very, very different experience!" says the 26-year-old Blackburn actress and pop singer, who first caught the eye a decade ago on The X Factor. "With Rocky, it's noisy, and you already know the audience will love it anyway," she says. "With a new piece, you don't know how they will react, but it's also exciting because it's new, and you know the music is just so special because Dusty was a legend and that makes it a really feelgood show.

"The story isn't about Dusty but it feels like the songs have been written for the storyline, so it's not 'and now we're going to sing another song'. It just flows."

Son Of A Preacher Man revolves around a trio of random strangers, three woman all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, seeking counsel from the son of the Preacher Man, who discovers he has inherited his late father's skills as a love guru dispensing advice for curing the romantic blues at a cool coffee house.

When Diana auditioned for the role of Kat, the man she had to impress was director-choreography Craig Revel Horwood, best known for his witheringly candid judgements on Strictly Come Dancing. "He really pushes the boundaries, taking you out of your comfort zone, and with me he encouraged me to perform in a very aggressive manner to fit the role," she recalls. "He wants you to push your own boundaries too but he's also very patient in rehearsals."

Kat is a northern lass from Rotherham who has just lost her grandmother and is having trouble with online dating. "I've made her a very loud, bolshy, northern, tomboyish girl, who always sits with her legs open," says Diana. "She's really 'out there' and is the comedy role of the show."

This is the third time Diana has performed in a premiere, enabling her to create a newly minted character, just as she did in The Duck House in the West End's Vaudeville Theatre and in Hatched 'n' Dispatched at London's Park Theatre.

"It just kind of happens organically," she says. "As with all of these shows, it's been quite nerve-wracking but actually I prefer it because you get to explore the possibilities of the role, and even now I'm finding new areas to Kat, mixing it up, playing with my voice."

Son Of A Preacher Man is on tour at Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, and Hull New Theatre, November 7 to 11. Box office: York, 0844 871 3024 or at; Hull, 01482 300306 or