Interview with Zoe Birkett
At the time of the interview, Zoe was soon be performing in the UK tour of Hair, starring alongside Gareth Gates and Amy Diamond. Having had a sell-out European tour, Hair will open at the Liverpool Empire Theatre on Tuesday 10th April 2012.
Zoe has appeared in West End shows including Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Thriller Live and more recently Respect La Diva. Having been a Pop Idol finalist in 2002, Zoe followed that up with chart-topping success with her number one hit Get Happy. Some of the leading venues that she has performed at include: The Royal Albert Hall, VE Day at Trafalgar Square, The Princes Trust, Buckingham Palace and in Las Vegas.
Earlier this week Zoe took some time out to answer some questions about herself and her career.
Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to want to sing professionally?
Yes, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. I listened to them religiously as a child!!
You trained at the Amanda McGlynn Academy in Middlesborough and the Lorraine Murray Dance School. What are some of your favourite memories during that time?
Favourite memories…. honestly… the sweet shop! Ha Ha we had a great sweetie stall that sold the best strawberry laces! So I couldn’t wait for break-time and also all the competitions I used to do, I loved competing.
You gained scholarships at the Stagecoach Theatre Arts College, and also at the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s National Youth Music Theatre. What was this like?
They were the greatest years. I learned so much from both schools, and was so lucky to get a scholarship. It was just amazing to be around other people just like you that wanted to perform, it really encouraged me!
You were the winning female contestant in Pop Idol in 2002 (with Will Young winning and Gareth Gates runner-up). What was it like performing in the show?
Every week was a different experience, it obviously got harder the more the competition went on, but I was so very young that I actually didn’t feel too much pressure. I’m really happy that I did it at that age and not now, as now I’d be much more nervous, as I’d be more aware ! It was like a little fun bubble to me at the time as I was just a child that loved to sing!
Get Happy went straight to Number 1 and you performed to over 250,000 fans on two national tours with 5 hits on the Pop Idol Big Band album which reached No.1 in the charts as well as the single Treat Me Like A Lady being a chart success in 2003. Can you express some of the feelings that you had at this time?
Being signed was one of the greatest feelings, something I’d always dreamed about throughout my whole life, and the fact that it had all come true felt like a dream!! The album was a great success and Get Happy is the song that I’ll be associated with for the rest of my life, and that makes me so proud!
You have sung at numerous high profile events including; The Royal Albert Hall, VE Day at Trafalgar Square, The Princes Trust, Buckingham Palace, Las Vegas, Tony Blair’s son Leo’s christening, to name a few. Could you describe what this incredible journey has been like for you?
It’s been mind-blowing but I have worked extremely hard to get to do all of these things, nothing has ever come to me easily but I don’t mind, it makes me want it more!!! I do often look back though and think WOW I’ve done some awesome things!!
During 2009 you made your West End debut in the original Cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert playing one of the DIVAS alongside Jason Donavan at the Palace Theatre. What did you enjoy most about the show?
I LOVED being part of Priscilla. When I got offered the job I was crying my heart out and screaming my flat down!! It was a completely different new experience for me, I loved being officially called a DIVA, my mam calls me that anyway, haha. It was such a magnificent show to be part of, singing and hanging from the ceiling!!! Madness!!! And the cast were great!! Working with Jason Donovan and Tony Sheldon, wow, I learnt a lot that year!
You were the principle Singer in ‘What a feeling’ at the London Palladium with songs from films and the stage. What is it about that style of music that appeals to you?
Well a lot of the music in this show was Rock Pop and they are the type of shows I love to do… you probably wouldn’t cast me in Les Mis!! lol
You starred as Janet Jackson, the only female Lead in’ Thriller Live’ at The Lyric Theatre. How was that experience?
I’ve lived and breathed Michael Jackson my whole life!! I went to see him as a child and my whole flat in London is full of him!! He’s inspired me throughout my life, so singing his songs everyday was an honour!! I also got to perform in front of the Jackson family which was so surreal!!
As a celebrity contestant on ITV’s Sing If You Can which had 6.5 million viewers. How does performing on television compare to the stage?
Completely different. On television you can make mistakes and go back and do a re-take, ha ha. Live theatre you can’t escape!! Keith Lemon was the presenter on this too and he’s hysterical!
You performed in Respect La Diva at the Garrick Theatre. What was it like performing in the show and which were your favourite songs?
I loved this show! I got to be on stage singing with the legend Sheila Ferguson!!!! Motown Queen!! The songs were really challenging as a lot of them were big power ballads!! Which I do love to sing, but eight times a week was something else!! I got through it though, so pat on the back to my vocal chords!!
Who would be your personal favourite Diva of all-time?
Oooooh that’s hard… as a lot of artists have inspired me throughout the years, but definitely Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald and Beyonce!!
In 2012 you are going on tour as Dionne in Hair with Amy Diamond & Gareth Gates. What excites you most about the show and being on tour with it?
I’m really excited to start Hair, I’m not in rehearsals yet so there’s nothing much to tell as yet, but it’s going to be a great sing for me, I love the songs I have in the show! And of course being back with my buddy Gareth Gates is going to be a great laugh as we got on so well during Pop Idol!
Is there anyone that you would really like to sing on stage or record with?
Alive today…. Definitely Beyonce!!!! I hope Dreamgirls the Musical comes over, I’d love to play her in that!
How do you like to warm up before a show?
I need a good 40 minutes warm-up, to warm-up my voice and lots of hot drinks!
How do you manage to make sure that you have time for yourself away from the spotlight? How do you chill out?
Hm! Me chill out… Honestly, I don’t. I like to see friends and eat good food, but that is very rare, I’m honestly constantly on the go! I’m sure I’ll slow down one day!!
Any message that you would like to say to your fans?
I would like to say just a big thank-you to everyone who has supported me throughout the years, seen me in shows, bought records and sent me fan mail, it means a lot!!
Many thanks Zoe for a brilliant interview. Best wishes for the Hair Tour!
You can follow Zoe on Twitter @iamzoebirkett
Interviewed by Neil
Follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Updated 11th October 2014