Wonderful life for Rachel Tucker as her show plays to home crowds in Newtownabbey
She's been playing to sold-out crowds in one of the world's biggest musicals - but now Rachel Tucker is taking her own show right back to her roots.
Next week, her adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life plays at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh on Thursday, The Courtyard, Newtownabbey, on Friday and the Riverside in Coleraine on Saturday.
But the Broadway star can only follow the progress of her new production of the iconic Christmas film from her New York home, as she continues her role as Elphaba the witch in Wicked.
Before she took up the role, she was helping husband Guy Retallack run their small south east London theatre and it was there that It's a Wonderful Life was first shown. Last year, the couple produced the show for their Bridge House theatre and after rave reviews they decided to give it a "second life".
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Rachel explained: "It's a stunning adaptation and so beautifully done. It's set in the 1950s and 1960s and they just bring this to life. It's incredible."
"The cast are so talented. They play an array of very different and elaborate characters. There's a lot of comedy and romance and it's beautiful."
The show is based on the critically acclaimed film, particularly poignant for Rachel's Northern Ireland-based family as it was her late mother Kathleen's favourite.
She said: "They're very excited about seeing It's a Wonderful Life. It was my mum's favourite so they can't wait. They are so proud our little theatre is expanding and touring."
Rachel won't join her family as they watch the show, as she moved to New York last month to take up her new role.
"It's a dream job," she said, "I always wanted to play Broadway, but I never thought I would get to do Elphaba on Broadway. It's a total dream come true." Although it is familiar territory for Rachel, she said she has had to make a few changes: "It is the same machine, but a little bit different. Obviously I have to do an American accent. I had to do an English accent before. For me, the American accent is easier than the English one."
She added: "This time I've been able to approach it from a deeper angle. I'm not worried about if I can sing it, or if I'll laugh. I know all that. I was just so hungry to get my teeth into it again and trying to get different layers I didn't get the first time round."
Rachel played Elphaba on the West End for over three years, but left in 2012 to for other projects.
Last year, she made her Broadway debut in Sting's musical the Last Ship, which closed in January due to falling ticket sales.
But it was thanks to the show that Rachel was able to take to the Wicked stage again: "I was doing the Last Ship here last year and it's the same director as Wicked. We had a chat after our closing notice on the last shift and he said 'let's get you back for the green girl'. I couldn't believe it."
Guy, Rachel and their two-year-old son Ben have settled into life in the States and are now considering making their move more permanent to pursue even bigger dreams.
"I'd love to do some TV and film, over here especially. I think we may get our green cards and see how both Guy and I do over here. That might be the next thing. You might see us on your screens," she said.