Ipswich: Mary Byrne brings extra X Factor to Grease at the Regent

WEST End smash Grease definitely has the X Factor, with 2010 finalist Mary Byrne hoping to leave Ipswich audiences hopelessly devoted to her Irish charms when she guest stars as Teen Angel.

“Me make-up’s done, I’m just waiting for me wig to go on and I go down me little podium and sing me song to Frenchy,” she laughs as I catch up with her mid-show.

If you’ve never seen the film, Teen Angel visits Pink Lady Frenchy who’s reached a crossroads in her life and helps point her in the right direction via song.

“It’s a funny song. I love it; it’s a bit of fun and I throw in a bit at the end there as well you know, when I kind of go down on me knees.”

That can’t help the arthritis that plagued her during X Factor?

“It’s still there unfortunately; I’ve got a thyroid problem at the moment which is stopping me from losing weight but I am eating healthy. The weight’s coming down very slow and the eating healthy is actually helping me out believe it or not.”

Mary is a self-confessed Grease addict; owning the DVD and all the old vinyl LPs. The chance to step into the shoes of Frankie Avalon, who played the role in the hit movie, is a dream come true.

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“He was a handsome man God bless him he was and yeah it is big shoes to fill. I really am enjoying it. I feel like a child sometimes. I know the movie inside out, for God’s sake I could do it [the show] on me own.”

Mary shot to fame after reaching the live semi-final of the hit ITV talent show’s seventh series.

“If I hadn’t gone on the X-Factor I wouldn’t have this platform, I think I would still be struggling the way I had been, doing the pubs in Dublin; I don’t think I‘d have had this life I’m having now. People keep saying ‘you must be rich now’. Not rich, I’m much more happy than I ever was let’s put it that way.”

She still shops in Tesco, where she worked before competing in the show.

“I still go in to see the girls and we still go for a couple of drinks and stuff like that, we keep in contact. They’re just so proud somebody they know, who sat on a till behind them for 11 years, has got an opportunity to be in the limelight and sing like she wanted.”

Her debut album Mine & Yours spent two weeks at the number one spot plus a further eight weeks in the top five of the Irish music charts. Her follow-up, ...with Love, was also a top ten hit.

“That [having hit albums] sounds a bit weird hearing you say it. I’m hoping to do an original album next year please God; there’s a lot of people writing songs and I’m trying to put down a few songs me self. Whether they’ll be any good or not I don’t know but God loves a trier. Frenchy’s a trier, that’s why it’s so poignant to me to do the part [of Teen Angel].”

One of her stand-out moments post X Factor was appearing as a special guest for one of her own idols, American legend Neil Diamond, in concert at his Aviva Stadium concert in Dublin last year.

“That was fantastic, I never experienced something like that in me life. To know I’m up on the same stage as a legend. Now I was only doing a half-an-hour singing, but he came into me dressing room and gave me the biggest hug I ever got in me life from anybody and told me I was just to go out and enjoy it, remember it because it goes so quick.

“He was so right because once I was out there the adrenaline kicked in and the music just went and it felt within seconds it was over.”

As well as a third album, Mary plans to put pen to paper again after her autobiography got to the top spot of the Irish book chart and did well in others.

“It was a great experience and it does bring back a lot of sad and happy memories. It’s very good for your soul and mind to get all the old things that are eating at you or something like that out of your system.

“I still have a lot more in me to write and I hope to do something else. I’d love to do a novel and stuff, loads of little things I want to do and I just have this platform now and I’m going to take me chances.”

Back to Grease which sees Danny Bayne, who won ITV’s Grease is the Word, star as Danny with Carina Gillespie, who appeared in the show’s West End run, as his sweetheart Sandy.

The original high school musical, it features all the hit movie’s unforgettable songs including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy and Greased Lightnin’.

Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and directed by David Gilmore of Daisy Pulls It Off, Happy Days, Song & Dance and Footloose fame it’s been choreographed by Arlene Phillips.

“Do you know what, even without me self or the other special guests, the show itself, the kids, are fantastic. There’s no doubt about it, I just love watching them do what they do and the energy, they’re so talented it’s an unbelievable show.”

Grease runs at Ipswich’s Regent Theatre from September 24-29. For more entertainment news follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne