Filed Under: Interviews, The Bodyguard    Published by:
 2015/09/15

THE BODYGUARD

Starring Zoe Birkett

Cliffs Pavilion – 15th – 26th September 2015

The first thing I realise when I’m chatting to Zoe Birkett, is that it is just that, a chat – it doesn’t feel like an interview. I phone Zoe for our interview and the first thing she says is, “The reception here is rubbish – I’ll run outside and call you back.” A minute later she’s back. “Sorry about that darlin’.”

County Durham born, Zoe Birkett first rose to fame in 2001 in a little reality show called Pop Idol, which was fronted by Ant and Dec and with a judging panel headed by a rather young looking, Simon Cowell. This was the show that made household names of Will Young and Gareth Gates and had Zoe as not only it’s youngest contestant but also the highest placed female of the competition and being told by Simon Cowell that she had the ‘x factor’ even before the X Factor show came to grace our tv screens. We all know what happened in the tense final with Will and Gareth – but what did Zoe do next?

Well actually, she went on to have quite a busy time of it. Firstly, as a warm up act for Gareth and Will on the Pop Idol Tour, also releasing a couple of singles and latterly finding her niche in musical theatre, performing in such shows as Thriller – Live, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Respect La Diva, as well as being a backing singer for the likes of Cher and Jason Derulo.

She’s currently taking over the role of Rachel Marron, which she has been sharing with Alexandra Burke (of X Factor fame), in The Bodyguard tour which is coming to Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion on 15th September for a two week run. Zoe, now 30 years old, has been doing three shows a week up until now. The last time she did a full run herself was in Stoke for seven days for which she had a great response and fabulous reviews.

How does she feel about taking the lead for the two weeks in Southend? “Coming to Southend is great to be honest. Because I’ve lived in London for 12 years, I’ll get all my London friends to come as it’s not so far for them. I’m really lucky that I’m doing the Southend run.” she tells me excitedly. Lucky too that she has a week off before coming to The Cliffs Pavilion, however, she won’t be able to rest too much as she’ll be on the move. “I’m moving house to South East London with my partner so I’ll be getting my overalls on and getting stuck in with some painting and bits and bobs.”

I get the sense that Zoe’s not the sort of person who can sit still for too long anyway and looking as stunning as she does, I suggest that she must keep herself pretty fit.

“I’ve literally just come back from the gym right now.” she informs me. “I try to keep fit. You know, it’s good for stamina because this show has a lot of dancing. “Queen Of The Night” is a massive production number, really ballsy. We have dancers on stage and the boys with their tops off chucking me up in the air and all sorts of stuff.”

“I’m Every Woman” is a big fast number that the choreographer’s got us doing all sorts of crazy things in, so it’s imperative that I keep fit; it’s something that just has to come with the job.” She laughs when she tells me, “I’m a nanna, I’m an absolute nanna. I don’t go out. I’m pretty much teetotal. I think I’ll have a drink on Christmas Day, that’s about it but even this Christmas that’s not going to happen because I’m performing on Boxing Day. It’s pretty manic – I’m on Christmas Eve too! I’ve never smoked, I don’t drink, I just go home after a show and I do 12 hours vocal rest every day without fail.”

I suggest that for somebody who clearly likes to talk a lot that must be really hard. “I do love to chat! But when you think about it I usually sleep about 9 hours so then it’s not too much after that.”

The role of Rachel Marron was made famous by the late Whitney Houston in the film of The Bodyguard, along with Kevin Costner and it is a role made all the more poignant for Zoe, as most of the songs she performed on Pop Idol were Whitney’s. In fact, Zoe tells me with a giggle, “When I was on Pop Idol I sung a Whitney Houston song nearly every single week and I remember Simon Cowell saying, “Can you sing anyone else?” and I was like “No!”

I ask her if she has any favourite moments in the show. “There’s always a couple of songs from the show that takes me back to when I was 16. “One Moment in Time” being one because I sang that in my final 50 round and that was the song that actually got me through to the final 10; and then I sang “I Will Always Love You” in my first week of the final 10 and then I sung “Dance With Somebody” which was the week that I left, so those three songs always take me back to being a kid but the real moment I have when I think “this is surreal””, she pauses, “I don’t want to give too much away but something happens during “I Will Always Love You” which I mean, put it this way, I pretty much cry every time. Honestly, it’s spectacular and it’s just a moment that when the songs finished, I just see people standing up. It’s such a mammoth song to sing, honestly, it’s just the most amazing feeling – I’m filling up now just thinking about it!”

I ask Zoe if she has any superstitions before a show? “I always put on Whitney Houston, that’s my ritual after we do the warmup. I also go back to my dialect coach because being a Geordie, I have to really work extra hard on my accent.”

“With this show it’s such a big acting role and I’m on stage for 2 hours without a break, whereas before with other shows, there’s been a scene and I can go off and have a nice little 5 minute break and then come back on – this one is constant. This is the most demanding show I have ever done vocally and with all of the emotions needed – it’s a big journey; my character starts off the show being a big diva who’s a superstar and very independent to a woman who’s very vulnerable and falling in love. She gets a stalker and gets very scared, and then loses her sister. I’m drained by the end of the show.”

The role Zoe plays may be a diva but everything about Zoe’s personality is very down to earth, something that I’m sure her family have instilled in her. “When my mum and dad are in” she confides, “I get really really nervous and it’s something that’s been there for a very long time. Even smaller gigs that I do. I love them being there but it just makes me more nervous.”

I say that she seems not to have any nerves when performing, even watching her as a 16 year old on Pop Idol, to which she replies, “I don’t look like I’m flipping me! When I was 16 I had no eyebrows, I had a big long face and dreadlocks!”

“Okay then,” I say, trying to dig for at least one diva moment, “What’s the most showbizzy thing you’ve ever done?” She gasps, before thinking for a moment.

“Oh, ok, this is going to sound like I’m such an idiot. About 2 years ago when I was in Thriller in the West End there was a cast party for the 1000th performance – a really big night for us a big big night. Everyone was there and I just happened to take a little bit longer to get dressed. I arrived in the club, bearing in mind that most of the rest of the cast were in there and I got ID’d. I was 28! I didn’t have my driver’s licence on me and the doorman’s like “you’re not coming in” and I was like “mate, all of the cast are in there – you don’t understand I can’t go home!” So I tried to explain who I was and he was like “You haven’t got any ID ,I think you’re under age.” So I actually had to go online and Google myself to prove my age to prove that I was old enough!! I felt like such an idiot!”

You can’t help but love her and this is borne out by a stream of gushing tweets from her fabulous fanbase after every show. Zoe informs me, “The Bodyguard has got a massive following and literally every time I’m on stage I’m getting people at the stage door and messages on my social media and it’s just wonderful. I’ve gained some lovely fans this year.”

So what does the future hold for Zoe? “You know what, I’ve got a green card to go to work in America. The next stop for me at some point – well I’d love to go to Broadway. This show in many many ways has changed me as a person, it’s helped me grow so much, I’ve learned so much. 2015 will always be a special year for me!”

If you would like to see Zoe in The Bodyguard at The Cliffs Pavilion, click on www.southendtheatres.org.uk or call 01702 351135.

 
   Meet Zoe Birkett

Zoe Birkett (born 16 June 1985, Consett, County Durham, England) is an English singer. She was one of the youngest contestants on the first series of the ITV singing competition Pop Idol in 2001, being only 16 at the time.

Zoe began attending stage school when she was just three years old. She had had hopes of being a performer and had previously auditioned unsuccessfully to be in S Club 7, finishing in the final 12.

In 2002, Zoe finished fourth on the first series of Pop Idol, behind Will Young, Gareth Gates and Darius Danesh, and being the highest placed female on the show. During the programme, she performed such songs as Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time”, “I Will Always Love You” and...

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