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Chart-topping singer Alexandra Burke, who has carved out a career as a stage star, has been picked to play the Narrator in the musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Her casting marks her London Palladium debut. But more significantly, it is the first time a black performer has taken on the role: a sort of master of ceremonies, guiding us through the Old Testament tale that was turned into an enjoyable romp back in the 1960s by a youthful Andrew Lloyd Webber (only 19) and Tim Rice (just 23).
Burke, 32, has never seen the show, but knows the music well. 'I'm going to bring a soulful vibe to it, and just be me,' she said during a Zoom call this week. © Provided by Daily MailChart-topping singer Alexandra Burke, who has carved out a career as a stage star, has been picked to play the Narrator in the musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
She admitted to being hesitant when producer Michael Harrison approached her - even though the two have worked together in the past, when she headlined The Bodyguard and Sister Act. 'I asked if a black woman had ever done it before.'
Her friend, actress Mazz Murray, urged her to take it. However, one important voice was missing: her mother Melissa Bell, the singer and Soul II Soul member, who passed away in 2017. Burke said she felt certain her mum would have told her to haul herself 'onto that stage'.
'She was so fierce, an unbelievable woman who raised four kids alone and held down a career. God may have taken her at 53, but I do believe she was an angel on earth.'
Joseph will run at the Palladium from July 1 until September 5, with Jac Yarrow in the title role and Jason Donovan - a distinguished Joseph himself, back in his heartthrob days - as a hip-swivelling, Elvis Presley-channelling Pharaoh. The two actors played a sell-out season in 2019, with Sheridan Smith as Narrator. © Provided by Daily MailJason Donovan (Pharaoh), Jac Yarrow (Joseph) and Sheridan Smith (Narrator) during the curtain call of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' in 2019
Burke wasn't taken to the theatre as a child, because her mother was too busy raising her family; and working. She'd often accompany her to her gigs, though; something which installed a sense of discipline in the woman who went on to triumph on The X Factor.
She saw her first show, The Lion King, when she was 18. The black cast was a revelation. 'I was like: 'Oh ... we do this!'
Burke went on to play Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard for three months at the Adelphi, and on repeated UK tours.
Last June she uploaded a passionate 15-minute video on Instagram, in which she spoke of the racism she faced from within the music industry. © Provided by Daily MailPictured: Alexandra Burke (Rachel Marron) and Carole Stennett (Nicki Marron) in 'The Bodyguard' in 2014
She hadn't intended to post it. 'I reckon it was my mum going: 'Speak your truth, woman!',' she joked.
'Since doing it, though, I've never felt so free,' she admitted. 'Like a weight lifting off my shoulders.'
Burke described herself as 'single by choice' at the moment - though she's hardly alone. I could hear her four dogs - a Yorkshire terrier, Chihuahua, Pomeranian and miniature goldendoodle - making a commotion in the background.
Pets apart, she said she has 'zero distractions', but is 'open to meeting Mr Right'.
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The stars come out to play
Constellations - Nick Payne's gorgeous play about how we can discover the love of our lives in 'the quantum multiverse' - is heading back to the West End.
And perhaps it's written in the stars that Michael Longhurst, who first directed the show back in 2012 at the Royal Court with Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins, should be staging it again.
The Donmar Warehouse, where Longhurst is now artistic chief, is being refurbished (and an air filtering system installed) and is closed until the autumn.
So, instead, the Vaudeville will become the Donmar's home for Constellations from June 18 until September 12 - with a quartet of couples performing in repertory as Roland (a beekeeper) and Marianne (an academic specialising in early universe cosmology).
Pictured: Ivanno Jeremiah © Provided by Daily Mail
The season, which has 500 free tickets for those under 26; and 5,000 seats under £20, begins with Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans) and Sheila Atim (soon to be seen in the phenomenal Amazon Prime series The Underground Railroad).
They'll be followed by Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and Zoe Wanamaker (My Family); Omari Douglas (It's A Sin) and Russell Tovey (Years And Years); and Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids, The IT Crowd) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland).
All eight actors are 'vibrant, funny and quicksilver in their own way,' said Longhurst, adding that the multi-cast model offered him a wealth of possibilities.
Pictured: Omari Douglas © Provided by Daily Mail
And as it is only 70 minutes long, it will enable them to do 11-12 socially distanced shows a week, which may help the Donmar - and co-producers Eleanor Lloyd and Wessex Grove - break even.
Donmar Members can use their priority booking privileges on April 13 from 10am.
Friends level can book on April 14 from 9am online; 10am via telephone (0330 333 4814).
Public booking from April 16; 9am for online and 10am on the phone- 0330 333 4814.
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