What is Alexandra Burke doing now?

Alexandra Burke in costume as Spirit of the Ring, in Aladdin

Alexandra Burke stars as Spirit of the Ring in this year's pantomime at Manchester Opera House - Credit: ABNM Photography

Alexandra Burke is heading to Manchester in December, to star in a show every audience member, from age five to 95, has considerable expectations of – the annual Christmas pantomime 

Alexandra Burke in red dress, solemn face, one arm over head and one hand on her heart

Alexandra Burke, who says while music will always be her first love, opportunities to perform in hit musicals will never be declined - Credit: Laura Lewis

Alexandra Burke was just 20 years old when she entered, and won, the 2008 series of The X Factor. That was the year Diana Vickers, JLS and Eoghan Quigg also made the cut from the judges’ houses, and the competition was fierce. After winning The X Factor, she released Hallelujah, which became the European record holder for the most singles sold over a period of 24 hours, became the UK’s top-selling single of 2008 and the UK's Christmas number one. In 2009, Alexandra released her first album, Overcome, which went straight to number one on the UK chart and spawned four number-one singles: Hallelujah, Bad Boys, All Night Long and Start Without You. The chart success continued, with hit singles and albums, an international tour and an invitation to join Beyoncé on the European leg of her I am... Tour.  

Then it was announced, in 2014, that Alexandra would be taking on the role of Rachel Marron, in the West End show The Bodyguard - a role perfectly designed, it seemed, for her rich, soulful voice. 

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard, solo on stage, gold silk dress clinging to her curves, gazing beyond the camera, smiling

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard - Credit: Uli Weber

‘I fell into theatre by mistake,’ she says. ‘At the age of 23 I was offered The Bodyguard, but I wasn’t ready to do eight shows a week singing Whitney Houston. I didn’t think I could do it justice. I was offered it again at 26 years old, and it was just the last three months of the West End run. I was living in New York at the time and thought, well, three months is nothing, I’ll just go and do it, and my mum was like “listen woman, if you don’t go and do it, I’ll do it for you.” She said “you get that black backside on that plane and you go home.”  

Alexandra’s mum was of course Melissa Bell, a singer with Soul II Soul in the early 90s, and who had previously worked with worked with Liza Minnelli, Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston as a backing singer.  

‘My mum was Whitney’s backing singer when she was in the UK,’ Alexandra says. ‘Whitney was a massive part of my upbringing and my life. One time I remember I was heading out to play with my siblings and my mum said: “Where are you going.? That’s Whitney’s album, we’re going to put it on, learn every song, and then you can go out and play." 

Alexandra Burke and ensemble in The Bodyguard UK Tour, mid number on stage, blue light and dance moves

Alexandra Burke and ensemble in The Bodyguard UK Tour - Credit: Paul Coltas

‘She was with me in New York at the time and she flew me home. Best decision I ever made. It went from three months to five years.’ 

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Alexandra completed the West End run, before stepping into the lead role of Deloris van Cartier in Sister Act in 2016. It was a double whammy in 2018 as Alexandra starred in Chess at the London Coliseum, followed by playing feisty Roxie Hart in the West End production of Chicago. In 2019, Alexandra reprised her role as Rachel Marron in the worldwide touring production of The Bodyguard and this year has taken the role of the Narrator, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, alongside Jason Donovan, a role she will reprise in 2022 on a nationwide tour, which opens in Manchester on March 21. 

‘It was a whole thing; I changed my life completely, and I had never seen that as being a part of my career. But, when you get given opportunities like Sister Act, Chicago, Chess, Joseph – to be the first black narrator in the West End – you can’t turn those down.’ 

Alezxandra Burke in a scene from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

Alexandra Burke in a scene from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Credit: Tristram Kenton

Alexandra is quite clear that the music side of her life will never stop, and is in fact recording a new album right now, which will be released next year. At the same time, to celebrate one million copies sold worldwide, her debut album, Overcome, will be issued for the first time on vinyl. 

‘I’m so excited. You have no idea how excited I am. I know I’m only 33, but I’m an old school girl at heart. I grew up listening to Motown, soul, you name it and that’s the music I always listen to at home. For me, vinyls are the top. We have a stack of vinyls at home and I just believe that everything in life should be released on vinyl, because it’s classic, it’s classy, and it will never, ever go amiss – you'll always pick up that vinyl, now or in ten years' time – it won’t get hidden with all the other digital downloads. It’s there, visible, tangible. Not to mention that vinyl also has the best sound quality for music, because they have to compress it for digital and CDs. Make sure you write that down!’ 

What brings Alexandra to Manchester this winter is perhaps the most classic of all stage shows, pantomime. It wasn’t a genre she was familiar with as a child, however. 

The Opera House, Manchester has Aladdin in town for Pantomime this year.

Alexandra Burke is coming to Manchester for this year's pantomime - Credit: ABNM Photography

‘My first ever panto I saw was Cinderella, at Manchester Opera House, in 2015. I had the best time; I actually had an evening show that night and lost my voice, from cheering at the panto that day; I was screaming back thinking I was a child. I asked my mum – why didn’t you ever take us to panto? But she couldn’t afford it. Having experienced it for the first time in my mid-20s, I could see how much fun it was for the kids, for the families, and I am really looking forward to the magic that we can hopefully bring, this year, and especially after the time we’ve all just had – and there was no panto last year, of course.  

The pantomime is Aladdin, and has been written specifically with Alexandra in mind, in the role of the Spirit of the Lamp, incorporating her own music – though she can’t say precisely which songs we might hear. 

‘I’m really looking forward to it as I get to sing my own songs, which is really special. When I had the meeting with Michael Harrison [Chief Executive at Crossroads Pantomimes, the team behind this year’s show] he said if you don’t do it we’ll have to rethink the idea around someone else, but you can sing this song and that song, and we’ll build it round you. But in my head, I don’t think I realised how big it was, but it’s actually a really big deal.’ 

Matthew Croke, Aladdin, Alexandra Burke, Ceri Dupree as Widow Twankey, and Ben Nickles, as Wishee Washee

Matthew Croke, as Aladdin, Alexandra Burke, who plays The Spirit of the Ring, Ceri Dupree as Widow Twankey, and Ben Nickles, as the hapless Wishee Washee - Credit: ABNM Photography

It certainly is, to write a panto around a specific performer, while all the time ensuring it ticks every box the audience expects, is a complex thing, and there’s no doubt they were relieved when she agreed.  

‘It’s really special,’ she says. ‘Hopefully people will be excited to come and join us.’ 

Aladdin plays at Manchester Opera House from 11 December 2021 – 2 January 2022. Book your tickets online at atgtickets.com