Going from glittering Strictly Come Dancing champion to strutting rock god is a bit of a gear change – but Kevin Clifton is taking it in his stride.
“It’s not exactly typecasting, is it?”, said Kevin, who will be starring as Stacee Jaxx when smash musical Rock Of Ages arrives at His Majesty’s next week.
“I’m going to be playing a flamboyant, over-the-top, sexy, arrogant rock star with tight jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hat. So yes, it is a total shift.
“But it gives me a chance to do something different. I do like keeping things open and challenging myself.”
It is, of course, his Strictly persona which has made dancer Kevin a hugely popular household name – with millions rooting for him as he and partner Stacey Dooley won the Glitterball in the BBC show last month.
Kevin confesses winning was a shock for both him and documentary maker Stacey in a final up against Faye Tozer of Steps fame, Ashley Roberts of the Pussycat Dolls and social media giant Joe Suggs.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” said Kevin, who had been in the final four times without winning. He said before the final, Stacey had confessed she didn’t feel as good as the other girls or that Joe would swing it with his following.
“I said, we just have to enjoy ourselves on the evening, so we set out to do that,” said Kevin. “We had a great time, but we ended up at the bottom of the judges’ leader board. When you see them about to announce the results, the other three couples are hanging on to each other nervously and we’re just stood there looking around as cool as a cucumber because we didn’t think for one second we were going to win.
“So when Tess said it, it all went nuts. I fell to the floor, Stacey put her head in her hands, Stacey’s mum invaded the pitch, I started crying. It was one of the best nights of my life.”
With that Strictly success under his belt, Kevin is now looking forward to the next move in his career… tackling musical theatre in Rock Of Ages.
“I can’t wait to get started. I’ve been wanting to do musical theatre for quite a long time. It’s something I’m inspired by, so I’ve been keeping up some singing and acting stuff for a few years.
“Rock Of Ages, as it happens, has been my favourite show since I saw it back in 2009 on Broadway. I’m a big rock music fan as well. When this opportunity came about, I jumped at the chance. I’m delighted.”
Kevin loves the show because it is funny and a good night out, packed with great tunes.
“Parts of it are just like a rock concert, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s quite silly in a lot of places. It’s very much a comedy with a lot of charm about it.”
Taking on the role of Stacee Jaxx is a big challenge. Played by Tom Cruise in the film version, the stage role will see Kevin tackling some of the biggest songs in rock music, including Wanted Dead Or Alive, I Want To Know What Love Is and Cum On Feel The Noize.
So how has Kevin been preparing?
“I’m taking loads of singing lessons, mainly to do with preserving my voice. I have been able to sing for a while, but having to do seven or eight shows a week – and these are big rock songs, where I have to get high up in my range and it’s quite shouty in places – it comes down to voice preservation,” he said.
“Also, I am having to learn about moving around. I’m used to that with dancing but I’ve never had to think about talking and singing while I’m dancing, so I have to do all sorts of different things with my body, breathing differently and making sure I don’t wear out my voice.
“I’m really enjoying it. I love learning and I’m enjoying being the student for once. Obviously on Strictly I’m the teacher passing on all of my stuff.”
He is also taking a different approach to Stacee than the darker tone which Tom Cruise gave the character.
“My instincts are to play a bit more on the pretentiousness and silliness of him, that flamboyant over-the-top nature. He gives himself a lot of importance with how intellectual he is, but really he’s just a bit of an idiot. I find that really interesting… which says something about me.”
For all the preparation, Kevin admits feeling the pressure of Rock Of Ages. “The role itself, I’m not nervous about. “It’s more that this is the first time people are going to see me do this. There will be a bit of attention on ‘is he capable of doing this’, you know acting and singing. I suppose it’s just pressure from the attention of the audience. I just want to be as good as I can be.
“I just want Aberdeen audiences to come along and have an amazing night. Hopefully they’ll think I have done an all right job. Just enjoy the talent on stage and don’t be afraid to make a lot of noise.”
While looking forward to touring with Rock Of Ages, there is a downside. It does mean he is not taking part in the UK-wide Strictly Come Dancing tour with Stacey.
“Of all the years I’m not doing the Strictly tour it’s this one, eh?” Kevin said, laughing. “But Rock Of Ages is something I’ve wanted to do for ages, so it’s an opportunity I couldn’t really pass on.”
Kevin said he will go and see the Strictly tour the first chance he gets.
“I will be cheering Stacey on, but I might be crying inside when she comes out dancing with Aljaz.”
Rock Of Ages will be at HMT from Monday to Saturday next week.
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