Promising a tale of mistaken identities, heartbreak and happiness along with a string of familiar tunes from the Great American Songbook, Crazy For You comes to the Lyceum Theatre next week.
It tells the troubled love story of Bobby, son of a wealthy New York banking family and frustrated Broadway hoofer, and Polly, daughter of the proprietor of a failing theatre in Deadrock, Nevada.
Sent to close the theatre down, Bobby falls for Polly and, decides to save the theatre by putting on a show in the guise of a Hungarian impresario with the help of Broadway show girls on vacation.
Casualty actor and Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers plays Bobby opposite Charlotte Wakefield as Polly.
“Crazy for You was written in 1990 – the year I was born!,” she exclaims. “It’s a new show and the writing is very modern and I think that’s why it is doing so well. It doesn’t feel dated.
“It is based on Girl Crazy, a 1930s film, with the same Gershwin songs but used in a different way.”
I think it’s doing so well because it doesn’t feel at all dated
So we get hit after hit - I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, But Not For Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and Embraceable You..
“Polly is the only woman living in the town of Deadrock, Nevada, where her father owns the theatre which has gone to ruin since the death of her mother who used to star in the shows there, explains Charlotte.
“When I start a new job I like to do as much research as I can. I read about Nevada at the time to get a sense of the reality.”
Caroline Flack, also a Strictly winner, plays Irene, Bobby’s rich fiancee who is determined to drag him up the aisle.
Although best known as a TV presenter on the likes of Love Island and The X Factor she actually trained in musical theatre. though this is her stage debut.
One of the innovations of this production is that instead of an orchestra the music is played by the ensemble.
Including Charlotte? “I do play the wood block,” she laughs, “but the size of my part doesn’t lend itself to playing instruments as well as acting. There was talk of me playing the guitar when I was singing Someone to Watch Over Me but they decided it would be too distracting.
“It’s liberating to have actor-musicians. When they turned up to rehearsals and started playing these Gershwin tunes from memory it was amazing. They are so talented and to see these guys playing instruments, tap dancing and singing at the same time is awesome. I know it’s becoming a bit of a trend to have actor-musicians.
“It was a chance to re-invent the show. It’s not been done that often. The last West End production was 2011 by Regent’s Park Open-air Theatre. It’s because it’s such a massive show. Ours is streamlined. There’s not enough space for 10 Follies Girls and an orchestra.
“The director, Paul Hart, describes it as a story within a story and we have the actors on stage telling the story in a way that suggests a makeshift show.
“The production started at the Watermill in Newbury (where Hart is artistic director) , a lovely little theatre, and we have kept the elements of magic as we have move on to bigger theatres. It’s lush and it’s rich.
“These sort of musicals are in my blood. Musical theatre was my passion growing up. It was my first love and I grew up in the Disney era of Hunchback of Notre Dame and learned to sing from that.
“I didn’t tell my agent I could sing until I was 17 and then I got into Spring Awakening when I was 18.” That earned her an Olivier nomination which she later repeated for her performance as Maria in The Sound of Music at the Regent’s Park Theatre.
In between she played Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on tour and Sophie in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre and then on international tour. Lyceum audiences saw her last year as Laurey in Oklahoma!
“But I did TV drama as well – I was in Holby City for nine months (as Holly Cullen) – and Waterloo Road and I want to get back into telly work.”
Born in Macclesfield she grew up in Knutsford and has lived in London since she was 18. “I still go back to Cheshire where my parents are presently converting a 17th century cottage and help them.”
In fact it was in South Yorkshire where it all began when at the age of 11 she took the title role of an orphan in the Second dWorld War in the film, An Angel for May, an adaptation of Melvyn Burgess’s time-travelling novel, opposite Sheffield youngster Matthew Beard who also went on to a professional career. Both came to a premiere at the Showroom in Sheffield in 2002.
“Angel for May was where it all started for me and that happened almost by accident. I was in Stagecoach Theatre and was spotted there,” she recalls.
“It’s an interesting story, my career, it didn’t follow the usual route and there has been a lot of luck. I must write a book about it sometime.”
Crazy For You is at the Lyceum Theatre from Tuesday to Saturday.