Consett-born Zoe Birkett will be sharing the lead role in the musical of The Bodyguard with fellow talent show graduate, Alexandra Burke when the production comes to Newcastle Theatre Royal next year.
Zoe, who was the highest placed female contestant in ITV1’s Pop Idol way back in 2002 - when X Factor was but a twinkle in Simon Cowell’s eye - and Alexandra, who won the fifth series of the latter in 2008, will both play the role made famous by Whitney Houston in the smash hit nineties film, during the first tour of the multi-award-winning West End musical.
Alexandra, who took the role of Rachel Marron during the show’s sellout run at London’s Adelphi Theatre, will take care of evening performances, Zoe will make sure the audiences will always love the matinees.
Since her introduction to the millions watching the first series of Pop Idol, Zoe followed a flirt with the pop charts in 2003 with a string of West End appearances in shows including Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Thriller Live. Other theatre credits include the Acid Queen in Tommy and Maureen in Rent.
And Zoe’s involvement in The Bodyguard isn’t the production’s only link to the North East.
The lavish show, which will play on Tyneside from April 1 to 18, is co-produced by Newcastle-born Michael Harrison, best known in these parts for making the Theatre Royal’s pantomime a must-see in recent years.
Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar-nominated film starring the aforementioned Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard musical was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Best Set Design and won Best New Musical at the Whatsonstage Awards.
For anyone unfamiliar with the plot, the story sees former secret service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, hired to protect demanding diva superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. As the drama unfolds, the pair fall in love.
While The Bodyguard movie featured a soundtrack featuring classics Queen of the Night, Run to You, I Have Nothing and of course the iconic cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, the stage musical incorporates a host of tracks from Whitney Houston’s pre-Bodyguard back catalogue too, including So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, I’m Your Baby Tonight and I Wanna Dance with Somebody.
Brit Award nominee Alexandra, who has enjoyed chart-topping solo success since Geordie singer Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (then Cole) mentored her to X Factor triumph six years ago, said: “I couldn’t be happier to be joining the tour and I’m excited to get started. Being on the theatre stage has brought me great happiness.
“It is an honour to have been asked to join the team and I look forward to creating new and long lasting memories with the cast.”
* The Bodyguard plays Newcastle Theatre Royal from April 1 to 18. Matinees on Thursdays, Saturdays and Wednesday April 15. To book, call the box office on 08448 11 21 21 or online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk . For more information on the production, visit www.thebodyguardmusical.com