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Everybody’s Talking about … Kevin Clifton

Among all the stars at the WhatsOnStage theatre awards in February, no one stood out more than Kevin Clifton – thanks to the pair of vertiginous high heels he was wearing.


  • Musicals

Among all the stars at the WhatsOnStage theatre awards in February, no one stood out more than Kevin Clifton – thanks to the pair of vertiginous high heels he was wearing. This wasn’t just a daring style choice for the ex-Strictly professional, however, but preparation for his new role as Hugo, aka drag queen Loco Chanelle, in hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie heading to Norwich Theatre Royal 24 – 29 Jun. 

After practicing striding around in heels at home, Kevin says he wanted to test his sashaying abilities with a public outing – but most important was the walk he did through the London streets before the ceremony. “I wanted to do that because I wanted to feel the judgment of people, and hear the comments as I went past,” he says, noting that it helped him understand Hugo by showing him the kind of prejudice that he would have had to put up with over the years. 

Jamie is Kevin’s latest high-profile musical theatre gig since he officially left the hit BBC show to concentrate on acting just over four years ago. He says the role of Hugo, who is a mentor to the show’s titular hero as he makes his first steps in drag, appealed to him because it was something truly outside his comfort zone. “I’ve never done drag before, and I knew that would be a big challenge, and it was a character I could really just throw myself into and look different and be different.” 

Saying that, in digging into Hugo’s character, Kevin has found ways he can easily relate. Not only did he grow up relatively close to Sheffield, the play’s setting, in Grimsby, but like Hugo, he started out in a creative field, ballroom dancing, which was “considered sort of feminine”, he says. “I would turn up to school with an orange neck from the fake tan, and I had a perm to make me look taller, and all of that stuff – and just the way people would comment, and perceive me, that I can latch on [with this character].”  He has found getting into Loco Chanelle’s costume an empowering experience: “I love it…they talk about this within the show but [getting into drag] is like putting armour on. You feel transformed.” 

After this latest, unexpected turn, it will certainly be exciting to see where Kevin’s career goes from here. Quitting Strictly in March 2020 felt “quite bold at the time”, he says – and his move into acting hit a snag almost immediately when the pandemic caused the theatre world to shut down.  But since then he has flourished, impressing in everything from Singin’ in the Rain to Rock of Ages and Strictly Ballroom. Another more personal achievement he’s celebrated recently is becoming a dad to daughter Minnie with his partner, documentary-maker Stacey Dooley, who he met when they waltzed to victory on Strictly in 2018. Now in his early 40s, he has been totally changed by the experience of parenthood. “I feel like I’ve grown up, and become an adult,” he says. “With every decision now, the first thought is about Minnie, thinking ‘ok, do I want to take this job?’ and ‘how long will it take me away from home’?” 

As for the future, he says he’d love to do a straight, non-musical play at some point soon, and also try more screen work, having recently got his first TV acting credit with a cameo in the BBC’s Father Brown. The ultimate dream, he explains, is that “one day people will just think of me as an actor first, rather than as a dancer from Strictly – in the same way that Billie Piper started out as a pop star, but people don’t see her as that now.”  And his latest act of transformation should certainly help that process along. 

Everybody’s Talking about Jamie is at Norwich Theatre Royal between 24 – 29 Jun for more information or to book, visit or call 01603 630 000.