East Boldon's Lola Saunders shows co-star Antony Costa around Sunderland

X Factor's Lola Saunders has been enjoying the sunshine back on home turf.
Antony and LolaAntony and Lola
Antony and Lola

The East Boldon singer, who rose to prominence in the hit ITV talent show, is treading the boards at Sunderland Empire this week as she makes her musical theatre debut in Save The Last Dance For Me,

In between performances, the former Whitburn School pupil showed co-star Antony Costa, from Blue, around her home city with a stop off for an ice cream and chips at Roker Beach.

Lola Saunders enjoying the sunshine at Roker BeachLola Saunders enjoying the sunshine at Roker Beach
Lola Saunders enjoying the sunshine at Roker Beach
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She's also hoping to take him for some whelks and mussels at her former workplace, Latimer's in Whitburn, where Lola worked as a fishmonger for five years before pursuing a singing career.

From the same musical stable as Dreamboats and Petticoats, Save the Last Dance for Me follows two teenage sisters through the summer of '63 as they embark, for the first time without their parents, on a holiday to the seaside. There, they meet a pair of young American airmen who invite them to a dance at the local U.S. Air force base.

Lola, who plays Jennifer, said: "I think I've been doing Ant's head in about coming to Sunderland, it's all I've talked about. It's my home theatre where I come to see shows. Last time I was here was to see Wicked and now I'm on the stage.

"I was really nervous for opening night here, but now that's over I can enjoy the rest of the week. And I get to sleep in my own bed at home, which is lovely. Sunderland and South Tyneside has always been so supportive of me, which is why I really want to make a good impression here."

Antony Costa and Lola SaundersAntony Costa and Lola Saunders
Antony Costa and Lola Saunders
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Antony, who plays Milton, said: "She's doing really well. She's a real hard-working person and she's taken everything in her stride. If you give her a note, she listens, and takes everything on board. She's an absolute pro and I reckon she has a big career ahead of her."

The musical, which also stars Washington-born actress Elizabeth Carter as Marie, features tracks Sweets for my Sweet, Please Mr Postman, Viva Las Vegas, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, the title track Save the Last Dance For Me and more.

Antony, who's also appeared in Blood Brothers in the West End, and Boogie Nights on tour, said: "It's great to sing these '60s songs every night, they really stand the test of time. And the audience love them, people get up dancing and have a great time."

*Save the Last Dance is at Sunderland Empire until Saturday. For tickets Tel. 0844 871 3022 or visit www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.