Alexandra Burke: ‘I’m really excited to be taking on this challenge’

Alexandra performing with  Beyonc� in the 2008 X Factor final.
Alexandra performing with Beyonc� in the 2008 X Factor final.
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Alexandra Burke is in New York. It’s 9.20 in the morning and, according to the singer, it’s freezing outside.

She’s sat in her apartment, having visited the Big Apple to pick up some clothes to go on tour and to have some meetings before flying back to the UK to spend time with family.

Her 2014 schedule was as packed as the audiences she performed to on the West End as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard. And 2015 looks set to be equally busy for the X Factor alumnus as she takes the show on tour, kicking off at The Mayflower in Southampton.

‘Last year was all about The Bodyguard, so as soon as I was off the show I threw myself back into the studio and re-recorded my third album, as well as an EP I want to send out to my fans.

‘It has been The Bodyguard, recording, The Bodyguard, recording, and now it is back to focusing on The Bodyguard.

‘Life in general is a blessing and I’m working my backside off really. It’s good.’

Alexandra has put in the hours ahead of taking The Bodyguard on the road.

‘The main thing I’m looking forward to is that we’re changing the show slightly – it’s not going to be the exact same show it was in the West End. We’re adding more songs and we’re changing all the choreography, so those who’ve seen it on the West End will notice the difference.

‘But I’m really excited to take on that challenge. I’ve got my script here in New York and I’m re-reading all my lines and some of it has changed. I’m excited for the changes that have been made and of course to visit each city and give them a different vibe every single night.’

The role of Rachel demands a performer who is a talented singer, dancer and actress.

Alexandra has more than proved her vocal credentials, but how has she honed the other skills needed to bring Rachel to life onstage?

‘In terms of the acting, I have been trained in how to memorise lines and that actually came quite easy to me,’ she says.

‘When I was first given the script I learned it in seven days. I still find it a challenge, it’s new to me, but I definitely find it’s something I’m good at.

‘In terms of dancing I’m so used to it so when they throw choreography at me I’m up for it.

‘It’s something I love to do so I never find it so difficult or draining, I find it something refreshing and it helps me let off my steam and clear my mind.

‘I’m not saying I’m a pro at everything, but I definitely give it my best.’

This strong work ethic was a contributing factor to Alexandra’s success on the X Factor in 2008.

She built up a strong following during the series, but it was her barn-storming duet with Beyoncé in the final which sealed her victory.

When asked about the experience, she is initially lost for words.

‘Oh boy... what more could a young, aspiring artist want than to sing with Beyoncé. It was magical, a mind-blowing experience – one that I will never forget.

‘Even now, I still watch it and still get emotional.

‘I remember after I performed with her, I said to my mum, and to [fellow contestant] Ruth – “listen, I don’t care if I win, I have won in my heart because I got to sing with Beyoncé.” And the icing on the cake was to end up winning the show.’

Alexandra didn’t know she was performing with the 20-time Grammy-winner until the day of the final.

‘So basically Simon [Cowell] called me at one in the morning and said “We just booked Beyoncé for you”, but before that I didn’t know I was singing with her – all week they were negotiating the deal. I thought I was singing with Cheryl [Cole, her mentor] to be perfectly honest.

‘JLS and Eoghan knew who they were singing with because they had rehearsals with Westlife and Boyzone, and then there was little old me not knowing what I was doing all week. And then it got to Saturday and Beyoncé turned up like two hours before the show aired and we had 15 minutes to rehearse. I cried for 10 minutes of it and we rehearsed for five!’

One moment backstage stands out to Alexandra.

‘I remember being in her dressing room in front of her mum and her team.

‘I said “listen, just because you’ve flown over, I don’t care if I’ve won. I really don’t care any more. Just the fact that I’m singing with you is a blessing.” And she said “do you think I would fly all the way over here not to sing with the winner? You have no choice but to win tonight.”

‘I thought “Okay great, that’s that, pressure!”’

Another of Alexandra’s musical influences is Whitney Houston, who originated the role of Rachel Marron in the 1992 The Bodyguard film.

The film spawned the most successful soundtrack of all time, which has sold 45 million copies worldwide.

‘I didn’t have the honour of meeting Whitney, but my mum did because she sang backing vocals for her,’ says Alexandra.

Her mum is Melissa Bell, who was the lead singer of Grammy-winning band Soul II Soul.

‘Whitney knew of me because my mum wouldn’t stop piping on about me apparently. This was years ago, way before The X Factor. My mum absolutely adored her, and so did I to be fair,’ says Alexandra.

Although Alexandra points out she is at a different point in her career than Whitney was when she took on the role of Rachel, she can empathise with the American songstress.

‘I feel her in the sense of taking on such a big challenge.’

Alexandra Burke stars as Rachel Marron in the UK tour of The Bodyguard, which is at the Mayflower until February 28. Tickets vary in price from £25 to £49.50, call (023) 8071 1811 or visit mayflower.org.uk