IT’S every little girl’s dream to be a princess and Joanne Clifton admits that she’s found the perfect princess for her.

“If ever there was a princess that I would be, out of all the princesses there are, Princess Fiona would be the one,” she said.

Joanne will be in Manchester next week for the opening of a new touring production of Shrek the Musical in which she plays Fiona, the princess with a secret who falls in love with an ogre.

Messenger Newspapers: Brandon Lee Sears, Antony Lawrence and Joanne Clifton in Shrek the Musical

Although there is some glitz and glamour you’d associate with a princess, the role also requires Joanne to turn green.

“I’ve gone from being bright orange on Strictly with all the fake tan to bright green in Shrek so there’s not much difference really,” laughed Joanne, who won the TV dance show in 2016 with celebrity partner Ore Oduba, before embarking on a hugely successful musical theatre career.

“But I’m lucky as for most of the musical I’m human Fiona so I don’t spend most of the show green,” she said.

“It’s not like poor Antony” - co-star Antony Lawrence who plays Shrek - “Antony bless him has to get in I don’t know how many hours earlier than everybody else to get all his prosthetics on. I don’t have that.

“I have got one quick change where in eight minutes I have to run off stage, get a prosthetic nose stuck on and ears and hands then I just stand there while people paint my face and neck green.

“It’s a bit like the semi-finals on Strictly where you have to do two dances and quickly change costumes and your look. We used to have five to eight people working on hair, makeup and costume.

“But Antony is so calm and has such patience. I don’t know if I’d be able to do that. We did a performance on This Morning to promote the tour and we all had to get there early; he was up at four to get everything done. That’s dedication!”

Joanne is clearly revelling in the role.

“I am over the moon,” she said, “it really is one of my dream roles.”

A former world champion ballroom dancer, Joanne was one of the most popular professionals on Strictly alongside brother Kevin. But she quit the show to pursue a stage career which has seen her play lead roles in major tours including Flashdance, The Rocky Horror Show and The Addams Family.

Messenger Newspapers: Joanne Clifton as Princess Fiona in Shrek the musical (Picture: Hugo Glendinning)

“My first big role when I made the move from Strictly was in Thoroughly Modern Millie,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of Sutton Foster who played the role - I went to see her in Anything Goes when it was over here recently and I was so excited to see her.

“She also played Princess Fiona on Broadway and won a Tony Award for it and that show has been on Netflix for a while so I’ve been able to watch her performance.

“I can relate to Fiona. Although I am a world champion ballroom dancer from a world where people think of grace and elegance and everyone being softly spoken, I’m really just not like that.

“In the world of ballroom competition everything is image led so you have to be a certain way, which people expect of you and I’m just not that. This is just like Princess Fiona who isn’t your typical princess - this is just perfect for me.”

As well as being huge fun, Joanne believes that Shrek the Musical has a message which is really appropriate to today.

“Before we started rehearsals I watched the film again, probably for the first time as an adult,” she said. “And I realised that it’s definitely not just for kids; there are messages which are so relevant to everyone - to not try and live up to what other people expect of you and how important friendships are.

“It shows us you can be friends with who you want to be. Who would have though a miserable grumpy old ogre would become besties with this donkey? I think the messages are just great and those messages are very much part of our stage version.”

The film was full of pop classics but for the stage, the show has an original score.

Messenger Newspapers: Joanne Clifton as Princess Fiona in Shrek the musical (Picture: Hugo Glendinning)

“We do keep I’m a Believer from the film,” said Joanne, “but the rest are original songs. We spent the first week of rehearsal working on the songs and you could just see everyone in the room thinking ‘oh, these are so good’. There are a lot of fun songs but also some pretty emotional ones too.”

Opening in Manchester next week, Shrek the Musical is scheduled to tour the UK into April next year, including spending Christmas at Blackpool Opera House.

“Because of dancing there is a lot of family history connected to Blackpool,” said Joanne. Her mum and dad were champion ballroom dancers in their own right. “I love it that we’ll be there for Christmas. I wonder if the Pleasure Beach will be open? I hope so.”

Although she has a string of stage successes to her name, Joanne doesn’t mind that many people still associate her with Strictly.

“I can understand it,” she said. “For people who don’t get to watch musicals they will know me from Strictly but I also think I’ve pretty much established myself as a stage performer by now.

“The first musicals I did were in 2015 and 2016 when I was still on the show and then after leaving I’ve done some pretty big roles.

“Maybe at first I felt I had to prove myself - you will always get people saying you only got the role because of Strictly, but I’m over that now.

“And if people still think that then that’s fine; I’ll show them I’m worthy of being on stage and a princess, even if she is a green one!”

Shrek the Musical, Manchester Opera House, Tuesday, August 1 to Saturday, August 12. Details from