Taking the lead in Son of a Preacher Man is a dream come true for its new star Alice Barlow.
Best-known for her TV work, including Hollyoaks and Benidorm, as well as guest appearances on Coronation Street, Casualty and more, playing Kat in the musical is her first stage role.
The musical, which uses the back catalogue of soul star Dusty Springfield, made its debut last year, with Diana Vickers in the part.
The plot revolves around the Preacher Man, the swinging 1960s Soho joint where the kids danced the night away to the latest crazes and dared to dream of love, while the legendary owner, The Preacher Man himself, dispensed advice to cure the loneliest of hearts.
Only, that was a long time ago and all that remains are the memories, the stories and the myths. Until now, that is, when three random strangers, generations apart but all in need of help with their hopeless love lives, are inexplicably drawn to the site of the original venue. The Preacher Man is long gone, but his son, with help from the wonderful Cappuccino Sisters, might just find it in himself to channel the spirit of The Preacher Man and once more give these three lovesick strangers the look of love.
Alice first saw the show for herself last October.
' I saw it when I was in London, so I could nip in and see it. Diana was absolutely fantastic, I loved her in it, but it was nice to see the character and think about the different things I could do with it, but also quite nerve-racking because she’s had such great reviews in it, and I was worried about stepping in to her shoes.'
Alice joined the cast in January after its Christmas break, but has never met her predecessor.
'I hope I’ve brought something different to the part, while also keeping some of the things that people can relate to the character.
'When I was younger and Diana was on the X Factor people would come to me and tell me I looked like her, so it’s a bit strange now to be taking over the part from her.'
She was also thrown in at the deep end.
'We only had a week’s rehearsal. It’s my first theatre job as well, so I spent all my time at home at Christmas learning my words. I needed to get my script down and then we could work on the dance routines and where I needed to be on stage – I was absolutely shattered at the end of the week, but it’s been so much fun working with everyone.'
And although this is her first stage role, it was a long-held dream of the performer's.
'I’ve really done singing more than acting, I’ve been singing since I was eight, but I fell into Hollyoaks as my first acting job when I was 17, so I was really lucky, and then I’ve ended up getting TV job after TV job.
'But my dream when I was a little girl was to be on the stage, so this is like a dream come true.
'To get a lead like this in my first stage role, I’m so chuffed with this. It’s amazing to be part of this.'
Her co-star is actress and impressionist Debra Stephenson. 'She’s so lovely, and has been so supportive and helping me with stuff. It’s been hard for her too having someone new in but she’s been brilliant.
'She said she’ll show me some of her impressions soon, so I’m looking forward to that.'
Does she ever worry Debra's going to 'do' her? 'When I see her watching me I wonder if she’s trying to work me out!' Alice giggles.
How about Dusty’s music? 'She’s one of those people, when you hear a song and you go, "Oh that’s Dusty!" I knew all of the songs, but I hadn’t known they were her. She was such an incredible artist. When I got the audition through and I was researching her, it was an absolute pleasure.'
Alice initially came to national attention while still in her teens when she joined the cast of the long-running Channel 4 soap, Hollyoaks in 2009. Her character Rae had an eventful tenure, including a controversial suicide storyline, a love-triangle and suffered a miscarriage, before being murdered by a serial-killer two years later.
But Alice looks back fondly on the time.
'Rae was absolutely off the chain. I get people who think I’m going to be like her in real life, but I’m not – I have to tell people to forget that!
'She was so different to who I am. It was a real challenge, but I like playing characters who are completely unlike me.'
The Kings Theatre, Southsea
February 27-March 3