Rachel Tucker is a firm believer in the old adage “if it’s for you, it won’t go by you”.
Though bitterly disappointed when she failed to make it to the final of the BBC talent search I’d Do Anything, Rachel took a philosophical approach to the knock-back and decided fate had other plans for her.
It wasn’t the first time she’d been let down when she didn’t land a role. Last year she auditioned for the part of Meat in the West End musical We Will Rock You, but was unsuccessful.
But it seems the role of Meat was made for Rachel after all. Fast forward 12 months and the 27-year-old is belting out Queen songs on a West End stage every night. And this time she didn’t have to audition — they came looking for her.
Everything, according to Rachel, happens for a reason.
“Mum is always saying to me ‘if it’s for you, it won’t go by you’ and I see that now,” she says.
“Of course I would have loved to play Nancy, that’s why we all took part in the show after all, but I’ve no regrets whatsoever. I landed a fantastic role in the West End and I’m loving it.
“Last year I actually auditioned for the same part and was pipped at the post. I guess it was just a case of bad timing. This year they asked me to go for it. That’s brilliant. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do, sing on a West End stage.”
This week Rachel made her We Will Rock You debut, supported by dozens of friends and family who had come to cheer her on.
It’s a musical set in the future in a world where music is produced by machines and a revolution is underway to bring about a change. It features 32 of Queen’s best-loved songs and is based on the book by British comedian Ben Elton. Arlene Phillips, one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing, is the show’s choreographer.
Among the crowd who turned out on opening night were I’d Do Anything winner Jodi Prenger and Scottish finalist Ashley Russell. The girls still keep in touch and Rachel is delighted to see them all do well.
“Cleo [Royer] is in Dirty Dancing and Tara [Bethan] is narrating Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat and has been getting great reviews. What happened with I’d do Anything is that a lot of the girls who went off early didn’t really get to show off their skills to their best ability,” she says.
“All the girls who took part were looking for proper careers, not just quick fixes and they’re all doing really well now. I’m thrilled for all of them.”
Many of Rachel’s relatives were in the audience too — including a large contingent from Coventry.
“The family was over from home and a coach load of about 30 relatvies came down from Coventry,” she says.
“I can’t express how I felt, it was unbelievable. The way I got through Nancy each week was by switching off and not thinking about the people in the audience and that’s what I did on opening night of We Will Rock You.
“If I’d thought about everyone out there, I would have been a wreck. I just concentrated on the show and on Ian, who I’m teamed up with.
“Afterwards, Ben Elton came up to my dressing room and gave me a big hug. And I’ve been told Brian May can’t wait to see the show. The feedback has been awesome. It’s a dream come true for me.”
Rachel was born into a family of performers. Her father Tommy ‘Tucker’ Kelly sang from an early age and performed on the Black and White Minstrel Show with his father. One of Rachel’s earliest memories is singing on stage at the Dockers’ Club in Belfast with Tommy.
“It was my aunt’s 60th birthday and I sang a few songs, Stupid Cupid and Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” she says.
“Then I got asked back to sing with my dad. So I’ve always been a show off. It’s in the blood.”
The youngest of four siblings, Rachel is close to all of them, particularly her brother John, who has been ill all his life with kidney problems.
“John still lives at home with mum and dad,” she says. “He’s very proud of me and has been a great supporter of me. He keeps me going about me being his famous sister.”
After attending Little Flower school on the Somerton Road in north Belfast, Rachel did a Performing Arts course at Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education (BIFHE).
“The staff at Little Flower really encouraged me,” she says.
“I wasn’t academically gifted but they saw that I wanted to perform and they pushed me. Two teachers in particular, Mrs O’Connor and Miss Hart, were phenomenal.”
Before she had a chance to finish her course at BIFHE, Rachel landed a role in the hit musical Rent.
“The teachers came down to Dublin to see me in Rent and marked my performance as part of my diploma,” she says.
“I took a year out then, did some panto, took part in Star For A Night and then went to London to audition for college. The course started in September, so I went off to Camp America to teach drama over the summer.”
Rachel returned to London where she studied at the Royal Academy of Music.
Rachel’s first proper job was touring with the musical The Full Monty. It brought her back home to Belfast for two weeks, when the show ran at the Grand Opera House.
“I had a ball and I got to see the men stripping every night,” she jokes.
It wasn’t long after this that she met her partner, 44-year-old Guy Retallack.
“He was directing the musical Tommy and I was in it,” she says. “We went on tour and we got together. We’ve been together four years now and it’s great. I’ve no problem with the age difference at all.”
In fact, the relationship is so great, the pair are planning to marry next year.
“It’s all sorted. We’re going to get married at St Anne’s Cathedral and have our reception at the Dunadry Hotel,” she says.
“There was no question that it would be anywhere other than Belfast. I’m a family girl and wanted it to be at home.
“We live in London right now and love it, but never say never. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll come home. Guy loves Belfast.”
And Rachel is looking forward to starting a family.
“I’m really excited about the prospect of having kids,” she says. “But I don’t think we’ll do it straightaway. We’d both love to see a bit more of the world, maybe go on tour in Australia or America.”
Taking part in I’d Do Anything has opened many doors for the pretty brunette and helped her overcome any self doubts she may have had.
“I fee a lot more confident now about the future,” she says. “Everything’s turned out so well. Last year wasn’t great but this year has been fantastic. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that all this has happened to me.”
While her heart will always remain in theatre, Rachel admits she would love to try her hand at a television role.
“I class myself as an actress first and foremost, although most people think of me as a singer,” she says.
“I’d really love to have a go at television, something like Holby or Casualty. That would be great.”
But her biggest hope — and one she’s almost terrified of voicingfor fear it could be dashed — is to star on Broadway.
“My absolute, absolute ambition is to go to Broadway but I don’t want to say too much about it incase I upset my guardian angel,” she said.
“Nothing would top that for me, nothing. To star in the West End has been a dream come true. Maybe Broadway could be a possibility too.”