DON’T be surprised to see actor and former Strictly Come Dancing champion Tom Chambers having an early morning dip around Plymouth Hoe this August — apparently he swears by sea water swimming for keeping him fit and healthy during high energy theatre tours.
The city is preparing for a ten-night run of romantic comedy musical Crazy For You at the Theatre Royal starring Tom as Bobby and another Strictly winner Caroline Flack as Irene so expect plenty of accomplished dancing.
As I talk to Tom on his mobile phone, he is lying on the floor of the Dominion Theatre in London’s Tottenham Court Road taking a well earned mini break before rehearsals begin again in earnest.
‘This production is a bit different from any other,’ he said. ‘Forget triple threat (singing, dancing acting), now it’s quadruple threat because everyone is playing an instrument on the side. ‘There is no orchestra like there usually is, the cast members play the whole Gershwin score. It’s really quite unique and fantastic to watch as there is always something to look at.’
Tom plays the trumpet but only briefly as he is constantly singing, dancing and acting in this part. ‘It’s an incredibly demanding role,’ he said. ‘it’s like Tarzan meets Gene Kelly — I do acrobatics all over the stage and, of course, a lot of tap dancing.
‘There is so much nutrition involved in taking part in this show and we are not allowed caffeine in the mornings or to eat loads of pizza. People pay good money to come and see the show and I don’t want to let anyone down so I stick to all the diet rules.
‘It’s kind of like running a marathon, or two on matinee days, but it’s wonderful. I love it, it’s pure escapism. If you wake up feeling a bit grumpy or under par come and see this show, it will change your mood and warm your heart, twice over.’
For Tom, who fell in love with tap dancing as a kid and preferred watching Fred Astaire movies when his friends were watching Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme, it was a dream come true to star in this musical.
‘When I was 15 I saw Crazy For You at the theatre and I remember thinking at the time if there was one thing I would like to do in my life it was play Bobby. The script is so funny and quirky, almost like Tom and Jerry, and Gershwin is my absolute favourite.
‘It’s pure a joy to be doing this. I loved doing Top Hat a few years ago but with Crazy For You being a much more modern musical, written in the 1990s, this part has so much more freedom.’
A high energy, high kicking and gloriously glamorous Broadway musical, Crazy For You contains mistaken identities, plot twists, heartbreak, happiness and a wealth of memorable tunes from the Gershwin Brothers’ Songbook including I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Embraceable You.
It charts the troubled love story of Bobby, son of a wealthy New York banking family and frustrated Broadway hoofer, and Polly (played by Charlotte Wakefield), daughter of proprietor of a family theatre in Deadlock, Nevada. Sent to close the theatre down Bobby falls for Polly and, in the guise, of a Hungarian impresario, decides to save the theatre by putting on a show.
Tom Chambers created the role of Jerry Travers in the West End musical Top Hat for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award for best actor in a musical. His other stage credits include a recent tour of Private Lives and White Christmas in the West End. Tom’s TV credits include the BBC drama Holby City and Waterloo Road and he also won the sixth season of Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 with dancing partner Camilla Dallerup.
Following rave reviews and a successful season at the Watermill Theatre, Crazy For You will begin its national tour in Plymouth from August 17 to August 26 and Tom is very excited to be coming back to the city.
‘We came to Plymouth with Top Hat and I loved swimming in the sea there, just round the corner from the Lido (Tinside). Sea swimming is great for your ligaments and a good way to start your day so that’s what I am looking forward to as well as opening the show there.’
Tom was known for his love of tap dancing at school because he used to practise in the boys toilets!
‘The cleaners used to tell me off as they would always find me dancing in the loos,’ he said. ‘The toilets had a tiled floor that was great for tap dancing.
‘I attended a tap class once a week in Derby and later got into the National Youth Music Theatre.’
After three years at drama school in Guildford and another three looking for his big break ‘the best I could get was the Bob the Builder Arena tour and a Kit Kat commercial’, Tom was cast in the role of Sam Strachan in Holby City.
He had sent a video of himself performing a Fred Astaire dance routine whilst playing the drums to 1,000 TV producers and he caught the interest of a BBC casting director.
‘They were looking for someone to play a minor role as an American doctor in Holby City and the Fred Astaire link in my video was the thing that did it because he was American,’ he said. ‘Well that ended up as a three year contract playing cardiothoracic registrar Sam Strachan which in turn lead to Strictly.
Despite his talent as a tap dancer Tom did not walk straight into Strictly, he had to audition and said he found learning Latin and ballroom as different to tap as learning Japanese and English.
‘It was hard work, relentless,’ he said. ‘You would have the euphoria of completing the dance on the Saturday night only to come back on Monday morning to start from scratch again on a new dance but I loved it and I loved the training.
‘Many Saturday nights were a blur because I was in fright mode so I don’t remember them so much as the training. It was a minefield, remembering the heel, toe, rise, fall and so on and what steps to do when. It was one of the most incredible opportunities I have had in life and so humbling to think all those people are voting for you at home.’
After Strictly Tom married his teenage sweetheart Clare Harding and since then has become a dad to six-year-old William and three-year-old Olive.
He may admit that he was born in the wrong era but Tom certainly wouldn’t change his life for anything