MUSICALS: From Chart Toppers to Show Stoppers - Alexandra Burke

MUSICALS: From Chart Toppers to Show Stoppers – Alexandra Burke

When Pop Stars Go Musical

By Jordan Beck

Hiya! It’s just Jordan – back again for the second round of From Chart-Toppers to Showstoppers. Last time, we had a look at everyone’s (well, my) favourite member of Steps – the fabulous Faye Tozer. This time, we’re going down the talent show route and having a look at a star who is undoubtedly one of the most successful X Factor graduates. No, not One Direction. No, not Little Mix. And no, not even Jedward…

Alexandra Burke

MUSICALS: From Chart Toppers to Show Stoppers - Alexandra Burke

X Factor 2008 was a year to remember in terms of the now almost-dead talent show. Cheryl Cole started her new role as Simon’s new bit on the side, Diana Vickers dropped her knickers for that lovely Irish lad Eoghan Quigg and Britney Spears rocked up at some point to drunkenly mime her new hit ‘Womanizer’ in a pair of pants that her backside was far too big for. And then in claiming her victory not only as 2008’s champion, but also cementing her place in X Factor history as Most Surprised Winner Ever, Alexandra Burke beat boyband JLS to releasing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s jolly ditty Hallelujah in time for the Christmas charts.

She somehow managed to resist the urge to go into complete heart failure on live television and released her debut album Overcome, which peaked at #1. It contained the chart-topping singles ‘Bad Boys’ and the feminist floor-filler ‘Broken Heels’.

However, Alexandra’s next album Heartbreak on Hold, barely cracked the Top 20, finishing at a paltry #18. Rather disappointing after such a promising start, but only to be expected from an X Factor winner.  If you want really want to win The X Factor, finish in 3rd place. Look at One Direction, who went on to become a billion dollar boyband and Stacey Solomon, who went on to become a very regular panellist on Loose Women. 

With her pop career almost on the backburner, Alexandra turned to musical theatre. In 2014, she joined the cast of The Bodyguard to play the lead role of – ironically – a successful pop singer. The role of Rachel Marron was of course made famous by Whitney Houston in the 1992 film of the same name, which opened in the West End (with loads of Whitney’s songs chucked in to save time on song writing) in 2012.

By 2014, one can only assume it was struggling to flog tickets, so Alexandra was stunt cast into the lead role for the last six months. She then continued the role on the UK tour, to generally positive reviews, except for certain critics noting that she seemed to be doing her best “Whitney Houston impression”.

Perhaps that is the problem here. Surely she’d have been better off putting her own stamp on the role of Rachel Marron, like any actor would, rather than doing an impossible impression of someone who was – whether I agree with it or not – an icon.

Next up for Ms Burke: another musical based on another popular early 90s film, albeit one that bothered to have its own score this time. From Whitney to Whoopi, 206 saw Alexandra do her best impressions of Whoopi Goldberg as the incognito nun Deloris van Cartier in Sister Act: The Musical.

At the time, Alexandra had spoken about how the role was a challenge and how it had taken her “out of her comfort zone”. Still though, Alexandra was said to have “dazzled” as Deloris by the press and was once again lauded for stepping into another pair of big shoes. I actually saw this production and while I initially joked the show should be retitled Sister Can’t Act, I am wiling to admit that while Alexandra Burke is a better impressionist than an actress, she certainly has the pipes worthy of a West End musical.

What followed Sister Act was a stint in the Tim Rice musical Chess as Svetlana (let’s just move on from that one) and a limited run rocking the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago (sharing the spotlight with Blue heartthrob Duncan James), Alexandra is returning to her comfort zone, hogging the karaoke as Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.

Have you seen Alexandra Burke in a musical? Personally, I’d prefer to see her sticking to her pop roots but she has to be admired for stepping up to the plate and repeatedly proving popular with audiences in such iconic roles.

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