High notes on the high seas

DREAM COME TRUE: Rachel Holbrook will spend seven months at see aboard the luxury Queen Mary 2.
DREAM COME TRUE: Rachel Holbrook will spend seven months at see aboard the luxury Queen Mary 2.

Performing alongside Elton John at the Royal Albert Hall and featuring in a T-Mobile television advert isn’t enough for talented singer Rachel Holbrook.

She has now landed her dream job as a principal artist on the world’s largest ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, and is preparing to set sail on a seven month voyage of a lifetime.

Rachel, 27, of Eldon Street, Heckmondwike, has eschewed the modern hunger for fame for good, old-fashioned hard work since she left Heckmondwike Grammar in 2003.

She is currently being put through her paces during gruelling rehearsals in Northampton, before she flies to Hong Kong on March 17 to board the ship for the first time.

She will be one of four singers and 16 dancers who will perform daily shows for guests on the ship.

“This is like a dream come true for me,” Rachel said.

“At one point, the dancers are all going around me in these wonderful ball gowns, while I sing I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady.”

Rachel got a taste for performing while still at school, where she regularly featured in shows and performed with the Heckmondwike Players alongside her parents Paul and Susan.

“I always wanted to play Maria from The Sound of Music, which was my favourite part and I couldn’t believe it when I was chosen for that. That’s when I knew this was my career,” she said. After her A-levels, she secured a place at Cambridge University where she read English. Following her graduation, she still felt the pull of performing and took the brave step of moving to London without a job to pursue her calling.

Rachel secured a place at the Royal Academy of Music, with the help of two bursary funds, which is where her career really took off. Within a few years of completing her post-graduate study, Rachel was swapping glasses tips with the legendary Elton John at the Royal Albert Hall.

She recalled: “He was very sweet. He came to watch the dancers’ dress rehearsal and waved at us. Afterwards, he told me he liked my glasses which were purple with silver stars on the side. It was only my second day wearing them!”

Rachel’s other career highlight has been her appearance in the T-Mobile advertising campaign last year where she was among a group of girls singing The Boys Are Back in Town at Heathrow Airport.

The actors shot overnight in the departure lounge, greeting real passengers arriving in the country, which featured in the national ad campaign.

Despite her glamorous-sounding job, Rachel is adamant that she is just a normal girl from Heckmondwike, but she clearly has a bright future ahead.

“I’ve not had it easy, people have told me that I’m ‘not good enough’. You get hundreds of girls queuing up for one part. You have to have self-belief to get through it,” she said.

“You give up your social life, you don’t see your friends or family. You do everything you can.

“I got the job on the Queen Mary 2 by auditioning for the role and performing a selection of songs.

“Then I had to go through a full day of workshops where the dancers are scrutinised.

“They really put you through the rinse, it’s really difficult. But now that I’ve got the job, I’m so excited,” she said.

“It’s the most formal ship in the world and we have to wear uniforms. This is the ultimate job because I can combine singing with travelling, which are my two biggest passions.

“This is a chance to perform all the big solos and do the job I love.”

The West End stage looms on the horizon for Rachel when she returns to dry land, but she isn’t taking anything for granted.

“The job would guarantee me at least an audition at the West End because producers will know how durable my voice is,” she added.

“But I’m just so lucky and excited to have got this job.”