As a child, Sugababe Jade Ewen was obsessed with Disney’s The Lion King. So when she discovered they were auditioning for the role of young Nala in the West End she was determined to get the part.
“I nagged my mum to take me to the open auditions,” she recalls.
“She was kind of apprehensive about it, she believes in me but she knew as well I hadn’t had any real training, just the local dance school, so she said there are going to be thousands of kids going up for the same part so don’t get your hopes up.
“And it was such a horrible process. I had 13 recalls, and they brought in the Americans to whittle you down, and it was very pressurised.
“But I did it in the end, and I was like, yeah!”
Fast forward more than a decade and the 25-year-old is preparing for a new musical role – playing Dee Dee in the Rod Stewart musical Tonight’s the Night, which comes to the Empire at the end of this month.
The show, penned by Ben Elton and packed with songs made famous by Stewart including This Old Heart of Mine, Sailing, Maggie May and Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, is set on the mean streets of Detroit and in glamorous LA.
Nerdish Stu is in love with Mary, but is too shy to tell her.
One night he makes a pact with the devil to trade his soul for his hero Rod Stewart’s. It seems like a good idea... at the time.
“I’m Mary’s best friend, and am completely against Stu,” explains Jade. “I never thought he was good enough. And then suddenly he comes in one day and is all cool and I think, he’s too arrogant because he thinks all the women love him. So I’m really anti-him.
“But there’s also another character called Rocky who is totally in love with Mary. So there’s a bit of a love triangle going on.”
To add to the confusion, Dee Dee is secretly in love with Rocky.
Jade’s big number is The First Cut is the Deepest (also a hit for PP Arnold) – “because it’s about my heartache watching Rocky”.
So which one would she go for?
She laughs: “I’d go for the shy character, I don’t like cocky, arrogant men.”
Those who only know Jade for her pop career in the Sugababes, alongside Liverpool’s Heidi Range, might not realise that Tonight’s the Night takes her back to what she trained for as a student at the famous Sylvia Young Theatre School.
“I love theatre and I really want to go back to it at a later stage, hopefully a West End role,” she says. “I want people to know I have a passion for it and I’m happy to do the groundwork of putting in the hours.”
She could, perhaps, even end up in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical one day. The pair worked closely together when Jade was chosen to sing his song It’s My Time, the UK’s entry in Eurovision back in 2009.
Sadly it wasn’t her time that year – although she did score 173 points and end with a creditable fifth place.
“He actually said to me if I ever wanted to do theatre I should definitely give him a shout,” she smiles. “But I haven’t really seriously had time to consider it before now because it’s just been non-stop.”
As for Eurovision, Jade adds: “It was nice to feel proud of what I’d contributed. I think here we just dismiss it, but they take it really seriously in Europe and they really go for it.
“I think 122 million people watched it live that night, and the auditorium had 90,000 in it. It was full on and highly pressurised, but again it was an amazing experience.”
Tonight’s the Night is at the Empire from January 27 to February 1.