Mary Byrne | Grease
Interview by: Caroline Foran
Following its 4 year run in London, the hit West End show Grease is back by popular demand. As a fan of the movie, the music, the transition year re-makes and even that God-awful medley which finishes off almost every 21st birthday party since I was a wee young thing - not to mention the occasional 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' rendition in the shower - I'm most excited for next week when the highly coveted production arrives on the doorstep of The Grand Canal Theatre. What makes it even more exciting is Mary Byrne. Hot off the success of the X Factor tour, her Aviva Stadium performance with Neil Diamond and not to mention her tête à tête with the Queen of England herself, Byrne will now make her stage debut, guest starring as the 'Teen Angel' in the smash hit musical. Ahead of her new role, I caught up with the lovely Mary to talk about life after X Factor, her new book, and why meeting Gay Byrne was a dream come true.
Mary, how has life been since The X Factor wrapped?
It's been a world wind of just one thing after another. First of all there was the tour. That was brilliant. Then you're up on stage with Neil Diamond and you realise that's what you were born to do. And then you meet the Queen and then you meet Gay Byrne. Meeting the Queen was a pleasure but to meet the man that I grew up with, and for him to turn out to be the nice man that I always thought he was, was a dream come true.
So did meeting Gaybo top meeting the Queen then?
It did and now that sounds bad. I thought it was a pleasure and an honour to meet the Queen, she's a lovely lady and her husband is a lovely man but I'm not a royal person, I'm not into that. For me it was Gay Byrne.
Did you ever think two years ago that you'd be where you are now?
I never dreamt I'd be here. I always wanted to have a career but I never had the courage. I always had low self esteem and that held me back for a long time. I had no confidence in myself or in my talent no matter how many people told me I was good, it just never registered with me.
I hit the age of 45 and I started going through the change of life and I started doing bits and bobs with my brother, karaoke, singing in pubs, and then I really started to enjoy it. I believe that we all have a path in life, and I was on my path so long that I kept going off it in different directions and letting my nerves take over. But then you reach a certain age and you get to know yourself better.
What would you say to anyone else who might have talent but are too nervous to go anywhere with it?
Just face it; if you're young enough and you've got a good talent and other people are saying it to you. I didn't and it took me until 50 to get here and believe you me I know what nerves are like but they're not as frightening once you face them.
What was the experience of X Factor really like?
Well, I tell you, it's only when you go on it that you realise how hard it is. I watched it for 6 years thinking 'ah that wouldn't be too hard' but it is horrendous at times. You're up at 7am every morning, you're in the studio by half 8 and you're there 'til half 12 at night, and you could be sitting around waiting for hours on songs to be given to you.
So you didn't get any choice at all?
Very little choice in the beginning, but near the end I kicked up a bit of a fuss. Y'see I was the type. You'd get criticised when they're the ones who picked it, not you, and that used to get up my nose. That's why the one night I said 'Simon, you can never please you' because one week he'll say one thing then he comes back the next week and says another thing entirely.
How did Simon take it when you spoke out about him?
He said to me on the Saturday night that I went out, 'I heard you and what you said about me' and I said 'All I said was the truth, Simon'... and you know, he didn't like that at all.
Do you think he's mostly concerned with getting X Factor in the headlines?
I wouldn’t say it's his full concern. He's a businessman first and he's a really nice guy but he has to make a good show and he will do what he has to do to make a good show.
What's it like waiting to go on that stage?
I was backstage the first night and I didn’t like me hair cause I had never had it off me forehead before and I was thinking 'I've got to go out here and sing a song I've never sang before in my life and before I went on I blessed myself said a prayer and off I went. Listening to the VT was the most horrible feeling in the world. All I could see was the four judges and all I could think was 'I've to stand here for 2 minutes with them staring at me before I sing'. It was horrible. Then the music goes and I was like 'sh*t I don’t know the song' and for some strange reason it just came out of me.
You seem to have been more successful than most of your X Factor peers.
I know. Matt was on the phone to my manager the other day saying "tell her to stop doing so well I've a pain in my face listening to her!"
Do you still here from anyone else?
Yes I'm in touch with Paige and Katie, and Wagner's always on the phone to me.
(Swit Swoo) So since then you've performed with Neil Diamond, you've met the Queen you've had a number1 album - and now you're writing a book. What's that going to be like?
It's called 'This is my life' and it'll be about my childhood, the build up to X Factor, Neil Diamond and Grease, and basically telling small bits about the different stages of my life. I think it will be a good 'oul read.
Will you be dishing any juicy X Factor gossip?
No, God no, like I'll talk about the X Factor but it's not a kiss and tell book. That'll come later!
Who said anything about kissing, eh Mary?! Will you get to watch the X Factor this year?
I hope so! I'm getting excited just hearing the music!
What about this new judging panel?
Of course you're going to miss the old ones. I mean, Simon is the man and you'll miss him and Louis bantering, and Cheryl and Danni as well but they (the new judges) will bring something new to it. If they can get Gary (Barlow) to give it a bit of oomph it will be great. You've got a good panel who, for the first time, really knows music and the industry. I hope it does work.
What did you make of Cheryl's US X Factor experience?
I feel sorry for her that she was built up so much and then let down, but I don’t think Simon meant that to happen. He believed that, because she's so loved here, that it would be the same there, but she'll bounce back.
So now you've got a guest role in Grease. How do you feel about that?
I've been a big Grease fan my whole life since it came out I must have seen it about 19 times in the cinema. When I found out I was offered it I jumped down the corridors and said 'feck the arthritis' and I was like 'woohooo!' I have a good idea of the song, it's just a matter of me making it mine. I mean a year ago I was working in Tesco and now I'm starring in Grease!
Is theatre something you'll be doing more of now then?
Theatre is another challenge and it keeps me very happy at the moment. I'd love to do musicals, honestly. I'd love to do a bit of acting and I'm hoping somewhere down the line someone's going to say 'We've got apart for you in a funny play' and I'd play a real flamboyant mother or something. I'd love to do something like that for the bit of craic.
What can we expect from the show?
Well, I saw it in Leeds and I was hoping they hadn’t taken out any of the songs and they haven't. There's just a few new songs and it's very funny. The guy that plays Danny is gorgeous, he does a great job of Danny Zucko, and Sandy is just perfect as well. They just know what they're doing and they'll put on a fantastic show.
You can catch Mary Byrne performing 'Beauty School Drop Out' at The Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin from the 9th – 27th of August.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Wednesday 3rd August 2011 | Theatre
I'm heading along to Grease tonight with some work colleges - really looking forward to it now after this review :DPosted 12:05 | Wed 10th Aug 2011
Headed in tonight. V excited!Posted 12:36 | Wed 10th Aug 2011
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