At only 5 ft 1 ins tall, Dani Harmer quickly earned the nicknames of ‘Pocket Dynamo’ and ‘Len Goodman’s little munchkin’ when she was paired up with Vincent Simone to compete in the last series of Strictly Come Dancing.
But, earning a place in the final, she soon showed TV audiences that good things come in small packages.
And for her latest project she is certainly appearing in a larger-than-life musical; The Rocky Horror Show, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Dani will star as Janet, one of two squeaky-clean college kids who stumble upon an adventure with Dr Frank ‘n’ Furter when their car breaks down outside his house.
Dani said: “I have been a massive fan of The Rocky Horror Show for a really long time. This is like a dream come true to be involved in it, to be honest, and I’m enjoying every second. She’s a great character. Janet and Brad are my favourites because they are the ones that go on this big journey. They start off as this innocent, sweet, all-American couple and slowly but surely get corrupted by a transvestite.”
The 24-year-old added: “I’m a big workaholic and absolutely love it and with this show you don’t ever get bored of it. Every single show is different because you have the audience shouting out and you are never quite sure what they are going to shout out. You are constantly on your toes and your adrenalin is going and I would never get bored of it. It is a high-energy show. We are travelling up and down the country and it is tiring, but it is such a fun show to be involved in.
“In my first week I was terrified. I knew some of the major fans were coming along and they love it when casts change and I wondered if they were going to like my version of Janet, or whether they would be critical of it, but they were all so lovely and so welcoming.”
Dani shot to fame as Tracy Beaker, in CBBC’s The Story of Tracy Beaker, Tracy Beaker Returns and The Tracy Beaker Survival Files. The central character started out in a children’s residential care home, where she had been placed because of neglect.
But what was it like for Dani to grow up on screen?
She said: “It is difficult because in your teenage years, when you are going through your spots and braces and frizzy hair, you kind of don’t really want it documented, but mine just happens to be in the BBC archive. I had a very strange childhood, one that no other child had, but I loved my childhood loads and got to do loads of things that other people wouldn’t and I enjoyed every second of it.”
It has been said that, despite the many comments about her height on Strictly Come Dancing, the show helped Dani to be seen as a grown-up. When it came to the ‘munchkin’ remarks, Dani didn’t care too much.
“I didn’t mind,” she said. “I am small and I’m quite aware of that. I don’t necessarily need people to tell me every five minutes, but it was one of those things. Vincent himself is quite a short man and yes we did look very small together and in a way it benefited us as they pointed it out in things like the quick-step, when you have to get around the whole floor. As we were somewhat smaller than the other contestants, it was a kind of a bigger deal as we had to work twice as hard, so in a way it benefited us that they would bring it up. Especially when we did the quick-step at Wembley, we didn’t just have to get around the BBC studio, we had to get around the whole of Wembley and we managed it and I think that is why our scores were quite high that week.
“I had done a bit of ballet and a bit of tap when I was younger, but I had never done ballroom before so I was really keen to do Strictly, mainly because of the pretty dresses to be honest. But I really enjoyed doing every single dance, even though some of them I probably won’t ever do again. It’s always nice to have learned new stuff.
“The only dance we get to do these days is The Time-Warp. It would be a bit random if I started doing the fox-trot in the middle of the show. But Vincent, my dance partner, only lives up the road from me so I’m hoping, when I get off tour, I can knock on his door and beg him to do the tango again.”
The Rocky Horror Show will run at Milton Keynes Theatre from Monday, July 15 until Saturday, July 20.