INTERVIEW: Alexandra Burke on heading to Sunderland with Sister Act

A scene from Sister Act �Tristram Kenton
A scene from Sister Act �Tristram Kenton
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“People have said they feel like Deloris Van Cartier is not too dissimilar to myself – she’s a strong black female with a big voice” – when it comes to finding a new actress to take the lead in Sister Act, you could say there’s ‘nun’ better than Alexandra Burke.

The former X Factor star has stepped into the shoes of Whoopi Goldberg, who played the disco diva turned nun-on-the-run in the film of the same name.

Now a new tour of the comedy tale is hitting the road with direction and choreography from Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood, and has already racked up rave reviews in its first few weeks.

Channelling her inner Deloris follows Alexandra’s success in the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard. And she says she’s enjoying getting in the habit.

“I am over the moon with the reaction so far – I think it’s natural to be nervous and apprehensive about what people will think, especially as the show is still within its first month but I honestly couldn’t have hoped for better.

“We as a cast are learning every day and always seek to improve so to know that already it has been so well received is just great.”

Like many, Alexandra was a fan of the 1992 film which spawned the musical.

“I watched the film when I was a lot younger and loved it,” she said. “What really sold the show to me was the soundtrack, so am I so pleased it has been turned into a musical and that I am a part of it.”

Those disco tracks lend themselves perfectly to Alexandra’s powerful vocals which led to her winning the X Factor in 2008.

Speaking about belting out those big tunes, she said: “I love it. A lot have people have said they feel like Deloris Van Cartier is not too dissimilar to myself – she’s a strong black female with a big voice, a huge personality and a passion for music. I have such a broad taste in music, so being able to get on stage each night, step into Deloris’s shoes and into the 70s is amazing.”

She added: “The show is actually quite different to the film, but the storyline is still the same. It’s filled with so much energy and has such a fun factor about it. The storyline is so unique, it’s not something you expect to see – a disco diva in a convent. It definitely adds a new dimension to the plot. The detail that has gone into this show is incredible. There’s so many comical parts throughout and the cast’s delivery is just phenomenal.”

Treading the boards is a new direction for the singer, whose X Factor win led to hit singles Hallelujah, Bad Boys and Broken Heels, as well as her own headline tours.

But despite the album releases, she says theatre has always interested her.

“It was always something I wanted to do but I just wasn’t sure when,” she said. “When the opportunity to star as Rachel Marron in the Bodyguard first came along I remember being apprehensive about taking it on because it was out of my comfort zone and I didn’t have much acting experience, if any at all.

“But it is honestly the best decision I ever made. I can’t even begin to explain just how much I have learnt from musical theatre. I think any artist who gets offered the opportunity to be part of a show should grab it with both hands.

“My confidence has grown immensely as a result and I have made some great friends throughout my journey so far. I am so thrilled to now be onto my second show and playing the new part of Deloris Van Cartier. I get to perform to a theatre of people day in day out, doing what I love, singing - I feel truly blessed that I am in position to do this.

“It is not a change of direction forever, my music is still the most important thing to me and along with the show’s schedule I do try and factor in time in the studio to work on my own material, which I hope to release towards the back end of 2017.”

It was her own music which last brought the star to the Empire for her headline All Night Long tour in 2011.

“I cannot wait to come back,” she said. “It is a completely different experience being part of a show as opposed to your own show.”

•Sister Act is at Sunderland Empire from September 5-10. Tickets available from the Box Office, via the ticket centre on 0844 871 3022 or at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland