FORMER Strictly Come Dancing winner Joanne Clifton admits she’s never had to face such a challenge as playing the sexy tomboy welder Alex Owens in Flashdance - the Musical.

As she prepares to bring the show to Manchester’s Palace Theatre, Joanne revealed: “I’m basically dancing in my knickers on stage in front of thousands of people and getting buckets of water thrown all over me every night.

“It’s my worst nightmare really,” she laughed.

“It is a very sexy role and that was one of the challenges for me.”

The musical is based on the hit 1980s’ movie and features classic songs such as What a Feeling and Maniac.

Joanne plays Alex, a welder by day and nightclub dancer by night, who is persuaded to audition for a prestigious dance school.

Flashdance is Joanne’s second major stage role since she left Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 when she won the dance competition with her partner TV presenter Ore Oduba.

She previously earned rave reviews for taking the lead in Thoroughly Modern Mille.

“The two shows couldn’t be more different,” said Joanne. “Millie was a quirky, funny little thing and Alex Owens is a sexy tomboy welder. When it comes to the singing, Millie was very much traditional musical theatre whereas this is basically Eighties’ pop.”

Then there’s the dancing. Although Joanne had been a ballroom and Latin champion, Flashdance represented a whole new set of challenges.

“The closest thing I’d done to this style of dancing is disco freestyle which I did as a kid in my mum and dad’s dance school,” she said. “But I love a challenge. I’ve been doing waltzes all my life and now I’ve got to handle all this hip hop, street dancing, stuff. It’s really cool.”

Joanne admits she has had to discover her sexy side to play Alex in a series of revealing dance outfits.

“I even get embarrassed on a beach in a bikini,” she said. “I like to be covered up all the time.

“On Strictly I wasn’t exactly the sexy one; among the professionals everybody has a role - you have sexy one, the glamorous one, the erotic one, the Amazonian woman one. I was told I was the relatable one!

“The costume department used to laugh because when we tried that week’s costumes on I would be the only one who’d want to make their costume longer rather than shorter.

“The other thing that worried me in the beginning was that the rest of the dancers are so much younger than me - I’m 34 and they are in their early twenties in these Eighties’ style leotards which go right up your bum.

“I said ‘I can’t do that because I’m going on 40 and I’ve got cellulite’.

“But it’s fine now, I’ve got used to it.”

One of the most famous scenes from the film has been kept in the show and sees Joanne getting soaked every night.

“There are two tanks of water above the stage in this contraption and I have to pull a lever and it all falls on me - it’s freezing,” she said. “I have danced just a little bit before that so I am quite warm, but it is still cold and quite a shock.”

As well as losing her inhibitions, Joanne believes she’s also improved her metalwork skills!

“I’m not sure what welding is to be honest,” she laughed, “but I do know we have an angle grinder and the boys hold up some metals poles which I grind to make sparks.

“At the start of the run I think I could make about four sparks, but now there’s loads of them.”

One skill she’s less still not mastered is riding a bike.

“I think the audience should be warned before the show,” she said. “The first time they see me, I have to ride on stage on my bicycle. I’m supposed to do this figure of eight and end up centre stage.

“I’m OK with the first corner and then I busk the rest of it - I’m petrified I’m going to steer off the stage.”

Joanne has been involved with Flashdance since last summer and will continue with a national tour through to October.

“I’ve not really stopped since August 2016,” she said. “My first week off since them will be in March.

“I had Strictly which went through until December and two days after the final, rehearsals started for Thoroughly Modern Millie. That toured until July and then it was straight into Flashdance - oh and I did Top Hat over Christmas.

“But I’m absolutely loving it. I wasn’t sure at first because Alex is a serious character, something I’ve not played before but it’s brilliant.

“And I’m so lucky to be with such a great cast” - her co-star is Ben Adams, formerly of boy band A1 - “we’re having such a great time.”

Flashdance - the Musical, Palace Theatre, Manchester,Monday, February 12 to Saturday, February 17. Details from 0844 871 3019 or