It’s a larger than life role that requires someone with a larger than life personality to bring it to life - so there is no better woman than ‘X-Factor’ star Mary Byrne to add that little bit of ‘Teen Angel’ sparkle to the forthcoming production of ‘Grease’ at the Millennium Forum.
“Oh I come out wearing this huge big blonde wig, singing to poor Frenchie about going back to school and all hell breaks loose,” Mary laughs. “It’s so very over the top - so very camp. It’s brilliant and goes down very well.”
Currently touring with ‘Grease’, Mary has played the role of the Teen Angel before when the West End show visited Dublin’s impressive Grand Canal Theatre. She was delighted to be asked to reprieve the role for the UK tour - and said she still can’t believe just how much her life has changed since she was a finalist on the ‘X Factor’ in 2010.
“I went into the competition hoping to maybe get as far as the judges. I hoped they would tell me I had a good voice but expected they would tell me I wasn’t right for the show, and I would have been happy with that. But to go as far as I did - to come fifth - that was beyond all expectations. And so many doors have opened for me since then - it’s just unbelievable.”
She admits the experience was at times exhausting and stressful - but said that facing the judges and the public vote each week gave her a confidence in herself that she had lost a long time before. “Sure I was just a 50 year old from Dublin, who wanted to sing,” she said.
Modest to the core, Mary says she is still happy to embrace the nickname ‘Tesco Mary’ - which was given to her during the run of the series due to the fact she had been working a checkout operator for the supermarket chain.
“I still get called it, and of course I don’t mind a bit. That’s who I am. That’s where I came from and they were very good to me during the run of the series.”
Since the show ended in 2010 Mary has recorded two albums. Her first album ‘Mine and Yours’ went platinum in both the UK and Ireland. She has a built a strong fan base who have already ensured her second album, due for release in the UK later this year, has already gone platinum in Ireland.
The album saw Mary work with Derry’s own Phil Coulter, who she describes as a “true gentleman”. The pair hope to tour together later in the year and Mary said she felt honoured to work with him, recording songs which she says give her a softer edge.
“I can still belt them out,” she laughed, “but we tried a few new things as well,” The new album contains a variety of songs, old and new - including songs which were favourites of her late father.
“I sang ‘For the Good Times’ and ‘You Don’t Know Me’ for my daddy, which was emotional and something special. She also covered one of Phil Coulter’s best loved classics ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’ - which she says Coulter has himself described as feeling “so honest”.
The Derry singer and songwriter even composed a song just for Mary called ‘Thank God This was My Life’ inspired by Mary’s own life. “I do feel very blessed,” Mary said. “The last year and a half has been fantastic. I never, ever could have dreamed I would be where I am now.”
With the future looking bright for Mary she says she hopes to continue, recording and performing. And she would love to do more work in the theatre. Like many women she also has her own personal goals too - revealing she has lost a staggering four and a half stone since she began her ‘X-Factor’ journey.
“This year will also be the year I lose more weight,” she says before going back into rehearsals to don that big blonde wig. ‘Grease’ performs at the Millennium Forum from Monday, 27th February until Saturday, 3rd March 2012. Telephone the Box Office on 71 264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk for tickets.