Life

Amelia Lily tells how stage musical version of kids classic Shrek has the X factor

Former X Factor singer chats to Jenny Lee about her chihuahuas, Celebrity Big Brother and donning the famous green dress in her dream role as Princess Fiona in the musical Shrek

 Amelia Lily stars in Shrek The Musical, which comes to Belfast's Grand Opera House this month

"WHO doesn’t want to be a princess?", beams Amelia Lily. She may be remembered for her pink hair and her feisty attitude as a 16-year-old during the 2011 run of The X Factor, but Lily has gone on to not only succeed in the pop world but also carve out a successful career in musical theatre – and she's relishing her biggest role yet.

The 23-year-old is currently pulling on a crown in the role of Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical, which will be heading to Belfast and Dublin later this month.

"It’s one of those roles that was on my bucket list. I’m so lucky and honoured to be playing such an amazing role," says Lily, who particularly enjoys her character's lack of sterotypical tropes.

“What I love about Princess Fiona is that she is not your average princess. There are definitely similarities between me and Fiona. She’s a bit of a tomboy, she’s feisty, she's got confidence and is a funny girl who lives in this fairytale world and believes she can talk to animals – as do I," says Lily, who admits the hardest part of touring is being parted from her chihuahuas Elphie, Belle and Fifi.

Based on the story and characters from the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, the stage production turns the world of fairytales upside down in an all-singing, all-dancing musical comedy.

Shrek The Musical, complete with its cult anthem I'm A Believer, brings well-loved fairytale characters such as Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinnochio, The Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Man and The Sugarplum Fairy to life.

The plot revolves around green ogre Shrek and his loyal steed Donkey who set off on a quest to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona from her tower guarded by a fire-breathing love-sick dragon. Although the story is loved by children, there are plenty of jokes aimed at adults too, mainly from the vertically challenged Lord Farquhar.

Lily will celebrate her 24th birthday during the Belfast run and she's hoping her youthful exuberance translates to the stage.

"We have great fun on-stage. I hope I bring a young essence to the part, " she says.

The Middlesbrough singer has vivid memories of first watching the film, which featured the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, as a seven-year-old.

“It’s still one of my all-time favourite films. I loved the scene where Shrek and donkey first met and I remember learning it off by heart and recreating the scene in my living room. For that reason alone, to be part of the show now is a dream come true."

Each performance involves 110 characters and cast members can undergo 10 changes during a single performance. Lily admits each performance is "a good workout". "In act two I hardly ever leave the stage and there are a lot of quick changes. I burn a serious amount of calories."

Lily first rose to fame on The X Factor, where she finished third behind Little Mix, with her duet of River Deep, Mountain High with mentor Kelly Rowland, one of the most memorable performances that series.

Off the back of TV show she signed with Sony Music and went straight into the studio to record her debut single, You Bring Me Joy, which reached number two in the UK charts. More top 40 hits followed before her debut album Be A Fighter, in 2013.

Two years later she fulfilled her childhood dream of turning to musical theatre, as the narrator in 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.

While Lily acknowledges that The X Factor "gave me an amazing platform", she is keen to advise young wannabees that succeeding in the industry isn't easy.

“You’ve just got to work your butt off. People think you get handed things on a plate when you get off a reality show, but it’s not like that. You have to show you are worthy of jobs. It’s a tough industry and yes I’ve had knock-backs, but they make you stronger and to be able to make audiences, clap, smile and be happy is the best job in the world.

"Those who follow me know that I’ve always wanted to get into musical theatre and I had planned to go to stage school before The X Factor took over. I still write music from time to time and I never say never about a return to pop but I really love acting. I’m still only 23 and films are also on my bucket list.”

The likeable singer also gained popularity during her appearance in Celebrity Big Brother 2017. Never nominated for eviction, she left the house on Day 25 as the runner-up behind Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding.

“Some folk can’t wait to get out and find it extremely difficult but I really enjoyed it. It did get boring at times, but I just viewed it as spending down time with people I never otherwise would have got to know. I was meeting new people, having a good laugh, being forced not to spend money and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

:: Shrek The Musical runs at Belfast's Grand Opera House from October 9-21. Details and booking at Goh.co.uk

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