Rachel Tucker: I’m overwhelmed by the massive support
Belfast hopeful gears up for I’d Do Anything semi-final
As the four remaining contestants gear up for tonight's semi-final of BBC talent show I'd Do Anything, Maureen Coleman talks to Northern Ireland's great hope.
Rachel Tucker says she is "overwhelmed" by the support she has received from the Northern Ireland public in her bid to win the role of Nancy in a new West End version of Oliver.
The 26-year-old from north Belfast is one of four finalists left from a shortlist of 12 hoping to win viewers' votes in the BBC talent search I'd Do Anything, and land the coveted role.
Speaking ahead of tonight's semi-final, Rachel said she was delighted with her song choice and that she had "never felt so positive" about the competition, despite finding herself in the dreaded sing-off twice.
"I'm feeling absolutely great, as confident as I was the first and second weeks," she said.
"I know I've been in the bottom two twice now and I've had some negative comments from the panel, but I've got a brilliant song to sing tonight, a song that's really close to my heart, and I'm feeling good about it. It's a happy, upbeat song and I've been enjoying rehearsals this week, so that's a really good sign.
"The mood among the girls is pretty relaxed and we're all looking forward to the semi-final."
Rachel was in the sing-off last week with Bangor girl Niamh Perry, but was saved by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although she said she was sorry to see Niamh go, she admitted her absence might help boost her vote.
"I adore Niamh, she was like a wee sister to me and honestly, I learned so much from her.
"I really admired her stillness, the confidence she had as a performer. I loved watching her, she has such amazing confidence for a 17-year-old.
"She has talent oozing from every pore. I was never like that at her age," she said.
"But I do believe the Northern Irish vote was split between myself and Niamh, so I'm hoping now that the people who were voting for her will vote for me.
"The support from home has been unbelievable. I've been overwhelmed by it.
"The people from Northern Ireland really pull out all the stops when it comes to supporting their own and for that, I am so grateful.
"I really, really want to say a big thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported me and just to say, please keep voting."
Rachel, whose designated colour to wear on the show each week is yellow, said she had been amazed to read that she had won the backing of Hollywood actor Liam Neeson, who saw her perform in the Lyric Theatre's Christmas production of the Wizard of Oz.
"I just couldn't believe that at all," she said.
"I mean someone of his status. It should be me saying how wonderful he is. I was so touched when I read that. To be honest, I filled up."
And the dark haired beauty also played down reports that there was rising tension between herself and Isle of Man contestant Sam Barks.
"It's just rubbish. Some paper picked up on the fact that Sam went to Niamh to hug her last week, but they were good friends and the same age, so it's natural she would do that.
"Sam's a great girl on and off the stage."
She considers her closest rival to be Blackpool's Jodie Pregner, whom she says has built up a huge following.
"Everyone seems to love Jodie. She has such a massive personality and I love her too.
"Although it could really be anyone in the sing-off this week, I think Jodie is my greatest threat."
Rachel said that no matter what the outcome of the show, she would keep in touch with the girls.
"All 12 of us will be reunited for the final and I'm really looking forward to catching up with everyone again," she said.
"This has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, though one I wouldn't want to do again.
"The pressure has been unbelievable. I've even discovered five grey hairs which I never head before. But it's been worth it.
"Doing this show has opened so many doors for me. I'm no longer just some girl standing in an audition queue.
"This is a dream come true for any girl in this business and I feel now like I could do anything. Even bungee jump.
"That's how confident it's made me feel."
And the all-dancing, all-singing starlet also revealed another reason why she has a smile on her face.
After getting engaged to boyfriend Guy Retallack on St Valentine's Day, Rachel revealed that they are making wedding plans.
"We hope to get married next August, back in Belfast," she said.
"But I don't think I'll be wearing yellow. Well, maybe just a hint."