Amelia Lily on why starring in Shrek has the X Factor
- Credit: Archant
Donning the famous green dress Amelia Lily is heading to the region to play Princess Fiona in the musical Shrek. The former X Factor singer tells Simon Parkin about her unconventional audition, being away from her beloved dogs.
'I was talking to an imaginary donkey, I think I was a bit delirious to be honest,' laughs Amelia Lily recalling her experience of auditioning to play Princess Fiona in the musical Shrek.
Having got the call the morning after she emerged as runner up from the Celebrity Big Brother house, she admits she went in unprepared to land a role she had coveted ever since she had briefly donned the famous green dress in a Children In Need special back in 2012.
'I woke up and my agent came into the hotel room and said the producers want to see you. Because it was last minute I went into the audition completely unprepared, and I just really had a laugh really,' she chuckles. 'I was in there a couple of hours, tap dancing, singing songs, making up scenes with the donkey when there wasn't even anyone reading the part of Donkey.'
It obviously impressed as she landed the part and will be performing opposite Steffan Harri as Shrek, Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad and Marcus Ayton as Donkey when the hit musical return to the region at Norwich Theatre Royal next month.
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Funny, likeable and refreshingly unstarry, Middlesbrough-born Amelia says Princess Fiona has been something of a dream role for her.
'For me this show has always been one of my favourites,' she says. 'I saw it in the West End when it first came out when I saw 15, I watched Amanda Holden do it, Kimberley Walsh do it, Carley Stenson do it, then I got to do it for one night only as part of Children in Need. 'That was my first time performing on a West End stage and it really was an overwhelming experience for me because that is all I every wanted to do when I was little was to be in musical theatre. So when the opportunity came up I couldn't believe it.'
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Amelia first rose to fame on The X Factor in 2011. She auditioned at just 16-years-old singing Janis Joplin's Take Another Piece of My Heart.
With Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland as her mentor, their fiery duet of River Deep, Mountain High was one of the most memorable performances that series, she eventually finished in third being beaten by Liverpudlian, Marcus Collins and Little Mix.
She also stood out because X Factor hairdresser Jamie Stevens dyed her hair bright pink.
'That feels like such a long time ago but at the same time I've got to remember that I was so young when I was on there,' she recalls. 'But since then I've not stopped working. It has been incredible and I feel lucky that from that I've been able to do music and musical theatre and acting.
'X Factor I think gave me an amazing platform. I'm so grateful to the show because there is no way in the million years that I would have been able to do what I've done without it.'
The X Factor wasn't her first at music however. Whilst a pupil at independent, fee-paying Teeside High School she began writing songs and posting videos of herself singing on YouTube. Her cover of Adele's Someone Like You garnered over a million views.
'I didn't have a lot of mates at school and was bullied a lot for wanting to sing,' she said. 'When I got into the X Factor they all started contacting me out of the blue but I ignored it all. I'm very grateful to the few good friends and close family that I do have in my life.'
Off the back of X Factor she signed a deal with Sony Music and went straight into the studio to record her debut single, You Bring Me Joy, which reached number two. More top 40 hits followed before her debut album, Be A Fighter was released in 2013.
She toured with Girls Aloud and Olly Murs before being cast in the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and then as part of the cast in the West End premiere of Green Day's hit punk rock musical American Idiot.
Princess Fiona is her first major lead role but it's the character's lack of stereotypical tropes that particularly appeal. 'Any female lead in the big musical is obviously a huge opportunity but part of the appeal of Fiona is that she is not just a typical Disney princess,' she said. 'She has all of these tomboy elements. She looks like a princess, she sounds like a princess, but she is a bit ditzy as well and obviously she has this huge secret that she is an ogre.
'The show has so many funny moments. In one of the songs me and Shrek are burping and farting. I love the way that it is written and has been brought to there stage, it is so much fun to play.'
She arrived in Shrek five months into the tour which has meant some quick catching up.
'It's been pretty full on because I came into there tour five months later than everyone else because Laura Main did the first half,' she explains. 'So I basically rehearsed the show on my own, just with Nigel Harman who directs the tour. It was a weird not like a normal rehearsal process to go into a musical and it meant that it was pretty daunting coming into a cast who have already been on tour for five months. But I got welcomed with open arms. Everybody was nothing but helpful.'
The tour will take Amelia all around the country but she tends to go home at weekends to be reunited with the three big loves of her life – her dogs, chihuahua Elphie, teacup chihuahua Belle and chocolate short-haired chihuahua Fifi.
'They are my world. It is hard being away from them,' she says.
• Shrek The Musical is at Norwich Theatre Royal from June 26-July 8, 7.30pm, 2.30pm June 30/July 7, 1pm and 5pm on July 1/8, £40.50-£8, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk