JOANNE Clifton will complete a hattrick of musical theatre lead roles at the Grand Opera House, York, when she plays clean cut but oh-so corruptible Janet in Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show from Monday.

The 2016 Strictly Come Dancing professional champion and former World Professional Ballroom Showdance champion appeared previously as demure flapper girl Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie in February 2017 and combustible Pittsburgh welder and dancer Alex Owens in Flashdance in November that year.

Now the Grimsby-born dancer turned musical musical theatre actress will be starring alongside Stephen Webb's Dr Frank N Furter and The Now Show comedian Steve Punt's Narrator in O'Brien's 1973 cult rock'n'roll musical.

This is the frolicsome, frothy, fruity show where American college sweethearts Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss run into car trouble, ending up at Frankenstein's place, where the scandalous Dr Frank N Furter is in the midst of a maniacal experiment.

"I hadn't seen the musical or the film before I got the availability text for an audition, but luckily they sent me a link to the musical, as until then I didn't know what all those audience shout-outs were about [shouting 'slut' every time Janet's name is mentioned]," says Joanne.

"My mum found it funnier than my dad when they heard it! I had to say to him, 'Remember, when they shout out the 'slut' slur, they're referring to Janet, not your daughter'!"

Joanne's initiation into the Rocky Horror rituals came in the rehearsal room. "We did get kind of prepared because our director, Christopher Luscombe, and the choreographer, Nathan Wright, ran it through with all the usual shout-outs in place, preparing us as best they could, but in reality nothing can match the experience of the first night in front of an audience," says Joanne.

In O'Brien's show, Janet Weiss undergoes a "sexual awakening", shall we say, at the hands of Dr Frank N Furter, the self-proclaimed "Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania". "I love Janet; I love the journey she goes on. She starts out as a bit prim and proper, and much to my mum's disappointment, I'm not that prim and proper!" says Joanne. "But I do relate to Janet when she does her floor show. I can relate to her being shy at the start, but then finding my confidence [through dancing] to be able to stand on stage in my knickers!"

Comparing and contrasting Janet Weiss with her previously transformative roles as Alex Owens in Flashdance and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Joanne says: "I can see a pattern there; they do all go on amazing journeys, though with Alex she doesn't know if she'll make it as a dancer, but gains confidence as she goes along, whereas Millie always had the confidence in her talent but didn't know if she'd get her opportunity."

In terms of her performing style, Joanne says: "Even if Millie was a little 'cartoony', Janet is a bit more 'cartoony'. Not that I don't act truthfully, but Janet is bigger in her facial expressions and her gasps, though we do have a resident director to keep an eye on whether it's become too big."

Joanne picked up tips from Rocky Horror creator Richard O'Brien too, at the beginning of rehearsals. "It was a really good chance to ask him questions about how we could play certain things in the show. He said, 'don't play for the laughs; don't react to the audience, play to the lines. The laughs will come'."

Now integrated into the Rocky Horror family, Joanne can understand the show's abiding popularity. "I just think it's a night of freedom for everyone, where they can do whatever they want, shout out whatever they want," she says. "The show will never die out; it will always go on because people love it so much."

Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show, World Tour 2019, Grand Opera House, York, June 10 to 15, Monday to Thursday, 8pm; Friday, Saturday, 5.30pm, 8.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at Be warned: this show has rude parts!

Charles Hutchinson