X Factor star Alexandra Burke gets in the habit for Sister Act role
From Saturday night TV superstar to stage sensation, Alexandra Burke is fast becoming a big star in theatres across the country.
Fresh from wowing the nation in The Bodyguard, she is now preparing to take on another iconic stage role in Sister Act.
After around two years in the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard, she is now playing a second equally iconic character on stage.
This time around though, it is a lead role that requires a slightly lighter touch in the shape of Deloris Van Cartier, the sassy singer who witnesses a gangland murder and is placed out of harms way in a convent.
Thus begins Sister Act which is heading to Milton Keynes as part of a UK tour. She admits she took a little bit of persuasion to bring Deloris to life.
She recalled: “The producer Jamie Wilson offered me the role and I actually wasn’t too sure about saying yes although it was a fantastic opportunity. I didn’t know if I was made for the role. I think it is a confidence thing.
“I was the same when I was offered The Bodyguard. Again, it was an issue about me not having enough self-confidence.”
But Jamie gave her the soundtrack, script and the film to watch while she mulled over his offer.
“I watched half of the movie and I listened to the soundtrack and it was actually the soundtrack that made me say yes. The songs are just so beautiful and I thought it would be a privilege to sing them,” she said.
Alexandra also believes this stimulates her in lots of new ways. The mix of comedy and drama in the musical as well as the challenges her character faces made it a role she felt she had to take.
She said: “Deloris is a very interesting character and very different to Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard but I am looking forward to taking on this journey and this new adventure because it is such an honour to play her.
“It allows me to even more open than I was playing Rachel and playing this role means I have to just let go and allow myself to trust my instincts. That is always something I have always been afraid to do because I always want to be perfect at everything.”
She has also won praise from director/choreographer Craig Revel Horwood for the way she has embraced the comedy elements of the show (Alexandra blushes: “It is great he is saying those kind words.”) and from the rehearsal process onwards, she feels Sister Act has helped her open up more as a person.
Alexandra said: “Everyone in rehearsals has said there is no such thing as making a mistake. It is just creating a different interpretation. I am just having a really good time creating a role with a team and they are creating their roles too and we are all on the same journey,” she said.
You expect Alexandra to exude confidence after being at the top of her game for so long. After winning Saturday night’s must-see TV talent show The X Factor back in 2008, her debut single Hallelujah became a European record holder for single sales in 24 hours shifting a massive 105,000 copies.
Concert tours, hit albums and West End success followed, but with it came a hugely strong work ethic to ensure every aspect of her performance is spot on.
As well as giving her all, Alexandra is also keen to create a new characterisation of Deloris and not just copy the performance of Whoopi Goldberg in the global movie hit version of Sister Act.
She said: “I always want to put my own spin and my own interpretation on anything that I do because everyone has different ways of bringing a character out of them regardless of what role they are playing. In fact, I have deliberately not watched the whole movie.”
One of her great joys is being able to perform the songs which fuse a Motown influence with a strong gospel base.
Alexandra explained: “I would say it is more of the gospel aspect that is appealing to me and just being able to be un-restricted in what I do.
“The creative team are allowing me to take the journey and do whatever happens naturally. There are no restrictions which is great and we are able to just be ourselves and just sing.
“I say that for everyone. Those who have their own solo moments can take advantage of them because we can all just be ourselves and be free with the music which is great.”
That steep learning curve is being helped by a strong camaraderie among the company with some top West End performers joining her in the show including Rosemary Ashe who plays Sister Mary Lazarus and has a CV encompassing some of the biggest shows in the West End including Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables, The Witches of Eastwick, Mary Poppins and Oliver!
Alexandra believes having such experienced colleagues to work with is a joy.
She said: “I am learning so much and it is great to soak in everyone else’s characters. Everyone brings a different energy. Every day is different because we are all discovering loads of different things.
“What I also see with this team is that everyone supports each other. It is a very loving and family-oriented type of vibe. Everyone is there for each other and there are no egos.”
Above all, she is still excited to be winning roles like this over eight years after winning public acclaim through The X Factor.
A very humble Alexandra said: “I feel very fortunate to still be working hard for what I want in life. It is a privilege to be offered these kinds of roles and they are very iconic roles.
“I have learned so much over the past couple of years especially doing The Bodyguard and now Sister Act. It is also hard work keeping the energy up when you are doing lots of shows in a week. I have a major respect for people who do theatre. I don’t think people realise how hard it is if they don’t experience it.”
Despite a hectic work schedule with Sister Act, Alexandra also remains focused off stage on supporting good causes. She is a celebrity ambassador for WellChild which helps seriously ill children and their families across the UK as well as supporting Breast Cancer Care and Diabetes UK.
She said: “For me, doing charity work is something that I feel lucky to do and I am lucky to be in the position I am in. If I do something I want it to be for the good. Charity is where it all starts and giving back is really important to me and my family and giving something back. I always want to make time for charity work if I can.”
There is a downside to touring as Alexandra admits she misses loved ones although that is compensated for partly by being part of a show like Sister Act.
“I do the touring because I want to play the role. What makes it great is performing and nothing else can give me that feeling when I come off stage. I just hope I can make people laugh, cry and smile when they see the performance more than anything.
“It is also fantastic to have so much fan support. I am very grateful and it is overwhelming getting such support from them. I have a good grounding as well from my family and friends that help me take care of me and they are always there for me.”
The show runs from Monday, September 26, to Saturday, October 1. Joanne Francis plays the part in the matinees. For details call 0844 871 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.co.uk/miltonkeynes.