When Tom Chambers first saw the musical Crazy For You more than 20 years ago, he knew that the lead role of Bobby was one for him.
Now he’s taking on his dream role in the touring cast of the show based on the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, which comes to Mayflower Theatre in Southampton later this month.
Tom tells The Guide: ‘I’ve done plays before that can be a bit on the bleak side, and it gets a bit depressing, but I saw this in 1994 when it first came out, with Ruthie Henshall and Tim Flavin, and I remember thinking, if I do ever get to play any role in my entire life, it would be Bobby in Crazy For You.
‘I love Gershwin as well – Gershwin’s music is the best music to dance to, but the script is so funny too. There’s nothing taxing about this show, it’s light-hearted comedy, and in terms of plot it’s classic boy-meets-girl. But it’s the way he goes about trying to get the girl – dressing up, mistaken identity, and then the real guy turns up and so on.’
The show debuted on Broadway in 1992 before transferring to The West End, but this latest revival has been given a tweak.
‘I think the key difference to this and the original Broadway production is that there’s no pit, no orchestra. The actors have learned an entire Gershwin score off by heart, which is a bit like climbing mount Everest as it is. They’re playing the music live on stage while singing and dancing and kicking and jumping and leaping. I honestly don’t know how they get clean notes out, it’s a mystery.’
I saw this in 1994 when it first came out, and I remember thinking, if I do ever get to play any role in my entire life, it would be Bobby in Crazy For You.Tom Chambers
Does this mean we can see Tom playing an instrument as well?
‘I pick up the trumpet for about four bars, but that’s it, I mostly do the talking and the singing and dancing,’ he laughs. ‘Oh, and I also play the drums a little bit!’
Tom is probably best known for his role as Dr Sam Strachan in the long-running BBC dramas Holby City and Casualty.
‘I did Holby for three years, and then I briefly went back in to Casualty.
I can’t really watch all of them, I do record them. Sam has been quite a rebel this time around. It’s been brilliant, it’s like slipping back into a familiar pair of shoes. The strange thing is when you leave it, your character is still existing somewhere in the world. It’s such a brilliant job to be able to do.’
‘I’m really lucky to be able to do TV and theatre, I really appreciate both art forms, but they are so different. On telly if you make a mistake you get to do it again. But in theatre – live theatre is so good for the soul, it’s soul food – having a group of people in the same room and everyone sharing the moment, if there is a mistake then it’s obvious. Acknowledge the mistake, and the audience is in on it, and move on. Live theatre, is such a good healthy thing, I think.’
And he also won the 2008 series of Strictly Come Dancing with professional dancer Camilla Dallerup.
And in Crazy For You, he was playing opposite Strictly’s 2014 winner, Caroline Flack, making her musical debut. Sadly she has since had to pull out of the show because of an ongoing back problem.’
When we spoke with Tom, she was still in the show.
‘I was her judge on the Strictly live tour in 2015. [Judges] Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli wanted a sabbatical, so Craig Revel Horwood invited me and Camilla to be on the judging panel, so I found myself slightly bizarrely, trying to wag my finger at her and criticise her dancing, which I couldn’t because it was absolutely faultless.
‘But she had great energy and we have great chemistry.
‘She deliberately wanted to not play the leading lady and be in more of a supporting role because it’s her first musical, so she’s being very clever not to jump in too deep, too quick, but she’s shining in it. The audience reactions are really great.’
And with both being winners on Strictly, you couldn’t pull rank on each other?
‘No, he chuckles, ‘But we jibe each other about who had the best show dance. I can’t believe it’s nine years since I was on there.
‘I’m still in touch with Camilla – she came to see Crazy For You in Southend while she was doing her tour and our paths crossed.’
CRAZY FOR YOU
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton