Musical Theatre Stars Who Have The ‘X Factor’

The award-winning Broadway musical American Idiot is set to make its West End début this summer, and it has just been announced that Amelia Lily, former X Factor finalist, will also make her West End début as one of the stars in the show. The London production of the hit musical, which features the music of Green Day, the lyrics of lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, and a book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer, is directed and choreographed by Racky Plews and will run at the Arts Theatre from 22nd July 2015 (previews from 17th July) to 27th September 2015. Further casting is yet to be announced, but it has been revealed that Lily’s first West End appearance will see her play the leading role of Whatshername.

Amelia Lily first rose to fame as a contestant on the eighth series of the popular ITV talent contest, The X Factor. She finished in third place and went on to release several music singles, with her 2012 début single ‘You Bring Me Joy’ reaching #2 on the UK singles chart, and was also the support act for Girls Aloud’s arena tour in 2013. Musical theatre isn’t strictly new territory for the singer however. American Idiot actually marks her second stage role (although her first in the West End), as she recently completed the touring production of Joseph and The Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which she starred as The Narrator.

Amelia Lily, who has wanted to be on stage since she was a child and described her role in the musical as ‘probably the most exciting thing that has happened to me, (London Evening Standard, 1st May 2015), is not the only former X Factor contestant to have made the leap from hopeful-recording artist to musical theatre star. In the decade since The X Factor first aired on TV, numerous contestants have used Simon Cowell’s ‘singing’ contest to springboard themselves to a new career on the stage. Lily, in fact, gained the role of The Narrator in the Joseph tour due to the sudden departure of fellow X Factor finalist Marcus Collins, who had finished as runner-up the same year Lily appeared on the show. Collins withdrew from the tour ‘due to a change in circumstances’, according to a statement released by his management team; unfortunate, seeing as this was the second time he had pulled out of a show. He was playing Seaweed Stubbs in the 2013 UK Tour of Hairspray when he made a sudden departure from the show, citing medical reasons.

During her time in the Joseph tour, Lily also performed alongside 2009 X Factor finalist Lloyd Daniels, who was starring in the title role of the musical.

So which other X Factor contestants have tried their hand at musical theatre?

Cassie Compton featured in the very first series of The X Factor back in 2004, and has since gone on to forge a highly successful theatre career. She already had experience as a stage experience as a stage actress before auditioning for The X Factor, including playing Ramona in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down The Wind at the Aldwych Theatre when she was just 10 years old, and at 14, starring as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden (Aldwych Theatre). After finishing fifth in the TV contest, she returned to the stage to play Jo March in a UK Tour of Little Women, and was then cast in hit West End musical, Les Miserables (Queens Theatre), where she played the leading role of Eponine. Following that, she returned to the Aldwych Theatre to perform in Dirty Dancing and then  headed to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to star as Nessarose in the West End production of Wicked. Her other theatre credits include Lena in Diamond (King’s Head Theatre), The Rose in The Little Prince (Lyric Belfast), Mary Gray in Monkee Business (Manchester Opera House), Kate in Spinach (King’s Head Theatre), Carman in Carnival of the Animals (Riverside Studios), Jean in American Psycho (Almeida Theatre), and most recently, she was seen in the lead role of Jemma in Molly Wobbly at the Leicester Square Theatre.

Shayne Ward, who won the second series of The X Factor, had a fairly successful music career following his time on the show, releasing three solo albums. He took a break from the world of music between 2011-2014 and made his musical theatre début in the West End production of Rock of Ages (Shaftesbury Theatre), starring in the original London company in the principal role of Stacee Jaxx. He also appeared in the final arena tour of Jeff Ward’s musical version of The War of the Worlds, playing the Artilleryman. He recently returned to music with the release of his fourth album, Closer.

Brenda Edwards was a contestant on the second series of The X Factor alongside Ward, but has become far better known for her stage roles since then. Following The X Factor, she was cast in the West End production of Chicago in the principal role of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, reprising the role on several occasions after her initial run in the show ended. She then starred in the custom-made role of Pearl in Carmen Jones at the Royal Festival Hall before joining the UK Tour of Queen musical We Will Rock You as Killer Queen. She reprised the role in the West End production at the Dominion Theatre. Other theatre credits include playing Diane Steed in The Human Comedy at The Young Vic, and the lead role of Bessie Smith in a workshop of a musical based on the life of the blues singer.

Ray Quinn was the runner-up to Leona Lewis in the third series of The X Factor, and has found far more success as a musical theatre performer than as a recording artist. He first appeared on stage playing Doody in the West End production of Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre, subsequently taking over the lead role of Danny Zuko. His other West End roles include Billy Kostecki in Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre, Warner Huntington III in Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, and he also starred as Billy in a 3-month tour of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. He is also a regular on the  panto circuit, having performed in Peter Pan (Neptune Theatre, Liverpool), Sleeping Beauty (Birmingham Hippodrome), and Jack and the Beanstalk (Northampton).

Rhydian Roberts is the fourth series X Factor runner-up who has released five studio albums to date, but also found equal success as a musical theatre performer. He made his stage début as Parson Nathaniel in the European arena tour of The War of the Worlds – Alive on Stage!, and has subsequently performed all around the UK in touring productions, playing Khashoggi in We Will Rock You, Teen Angel in Grease, and Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show. He is currently starring in a major UK Tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar as Pontius Pilate.

Diana Vickers featured in the fifth series of The X Factor and has since released two solo albums. She first ventured into the world of musical theatre in 2009, when she was cast in the title role of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, in a new West End revival of the show which played at the Vaudeville Theatre. She gained critical acclaim for her début stage performance, but has since only appeared in one other stage production: the 2013 West End play, The Duck House, where she played the role of Holly.

Joe McElderry won the sixth series of The X Factor, but only released one studio album with the Syco record label. He went on to release a further three albums in the years following his departure from Syco and also tried out a few musical theatre roles, making his stage début with a cameo appearance in Dirty Dancing at the Sunderland Empire in 2012. He went on to play the title role in The Who’s Tommy in a one-off performance at the Prince Edward Theatre, and has also appeared in Thriller – Live, as well as making his pantomime début as Prince Charming in Cinderella (The Beck Theatre, Hayes) in the 2013/14 Christmas season.

Lucie Jones is another X Factor contestant who has since made it big in the theatre industry. Her stage début following her appearance on the TV contest was also her West End début, playing the leading role of Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. After her Les Mis run ended, she was cast in the international tour of We Will Rock You, playing the role of Meat. She also appeared in The Prodigals at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and most recently, was seen in American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre.

It seems that Amelia Lily is just the latest in a long line of former finalists to bring the ‘X-Factor’ to the world of musical theatre.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Tuesday 5th May 2015