This month, Son of a Preacher Man comes to The Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. We caught up with one of the stars, Diana Vickers, to find out more about her role, and what it’s like working with Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood
This autumn The X Factor embarks on its 14th series. We can all think of winners who’ve prospered and have probably forgotten the ones who’ve sunk without trace. Few non-winners have done quite so well out of the talent show as Diana Vickers. She finished third in 2008, wearing no shoes and knocking the socks off judges and audiences with a voice of grace and power. She was 16.
“It’s weird because I’m so out of that,” she says, “but people go, ‘Oh so what have you been up to since The X Factor?’ And you’re like, wow, that’s nine years ago!”
The answer to that is plenty. She has recorded two albums. She had great reviews in the West End for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, the play Jim Cartwright originally wrote for Jane Horrocks. Most recently a nine-month tour of The Rocky Horror Show.
The latest addition to her CV is a starring role in Son of a Preacher Man, a new musical featuring the hit songs of Dusty Springfield. She plays Kat, a feisty young orphan grieving the death of her grandmother and looking for love via dating apps. “She’s big and loud and in your face,” explains Vickers, “but I think what’s going on under the surface is she’s quite insecure.” Her romantic odyssey finds her belting out Dusty standards like A House Is Not a Home, I Only Want
to be with You, Some of your Lovin and Stay Awhile.
Vickers threw herself into the audition attracted by the prospect of playing a well-crafted character. “It was more of a play with music, it’s not a big jazz hands musical. With the acting there’s more to get my teeth into. Even when I went on The X Factor I said, ‘Obviously I want to be a pop star but I’d love to be an actor.’ I loved doing my albums but it was very much ‘I won’t be doing this forever.’”
The talent show that gave her such a public launch still casts a shadow. Vickers arrives in every rehearsal room thinking she has “something to prove, coming from the X Factor and this stigma that comes with it. I’m forever trying to make people aware that I’m very serious.”
With Son of a Preacher Man she has had a head start. She grew up with the sounds of Dusty Springfield in the family home and later connected with her more deeply when imitating her as part of her role as LV, the damaged young performer in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice who only comes into her own when she impersonates the great divas. The cabaret medley in the play began with You Don’t have to Say You Love Me.
“Dusty’s just got so much emotion in her voice. She’s this soul-jazz-pop singer – all the genres in this perfect mix.”
The director of Son of a Preacher Man is the star of another talent show, Strictly’s scariest judge Craig Revel Horwood. “He’s very funny and tells you how it is which I like. He’s very assertive and wants you to give it all and go to the extreme and not be afraid and he makes you push the boundaries.” She’s not sure she could imagine being judged by him on Strictly itself.
“I’ve thought about this, especially coming into work with Craig. Part of me would love to do it but I’m a bit shy. Live TV stresses me out believe it or not. So the thought of going on live TV and being judged again, I’ve already done that.”