We speak to the Strictly Come Dancing winner about the importance of theatre for children and how his time in Top Hat is treating him.
Already a respected TV actor, Tom Chambers shot to dancing stardom during his winning stint on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008. However the ride to successs hasn’t always been as easy as you might think for the talented 35 year old as he explained to Melissa Rynn during the Kids Week launch.
How are you finding Top Hat?
It’s amazing – it’s so overwhelming I can’t quite get my head round it. Audiences seem to be really enjoying it and keep saying to us that they’re coming to see it again; if anyone’s willing to pay to see it twice you just think it must be a really good show.
And how does it feel to be in a show that’s so unusual for modern audiences?
It’s a bit of the old Hollywood glamour. It’s a really lovely genre to work in and a very happy to show to work on – I’m just amazed everyone finds it funny, even though it is a genuinely funny show. After all the experimenting with something that’s never been done before, you feel like a bit of a guinea pig, but it’s been so lovely! We’ve got a phenomenal cast; one of the best ones you could ever wish for and they're all amazing to work with. It’s so annoying as we’re getting to that stage where you start calling everyone by their character name rather than their own name. Steven Boswell and I were both having our West End debut together so we’ve been experiencing the fear together. But then Fred Astaire is so iconic and so globally respected that I went down the feeling of ‘how dare I take on such an icon’.
I have so much respect for people who work in the West End. It’s funny doing six nights a week and two on a Thursday and two on a Saturday. I now eat four banannas a day and I have three litres of water at work and a litre and a half before because things like nutrition just become so important!
That must do wonders for the skin!
You’d hope so, but I think the three layers of stage make up are cancelling it out.
Do a lot of children watch the show?
We traditionally had a fairly mature audience, but there are definitely a younger crowd creeping in now. Maybe through word of mouth, maybe social networking sites. But what’s great is that they laugh more than the older folk as they’ve not heard the jokes before. They say the old jokes are the best, but maybe that’s just because the younger folk have never heard the old ones!
Why do you think theatre is so important for young people?
In places like this we have such beautiful, magnificent theatres on such expensive plots of land – the maintenance itself costs a fortune. Because they’re so big, you need to fill them with big casts and a full orchestra which makes the cost even more. It’s no one’s fault, but because of sheer size and scale, the ticket prices need to be high too. It's so sad when people don't have access to them because of the ticket price. To give children the chance to be surrounded by the make believe of the amazing architecture and a huge show for free is just so inspirational, regardless of what they end up doing in life. They might not realise it at the time, but just being there makes such an impact; seeing theatre is food for thought in someone’s development. The difference between theatre and TV for human experience is so big and it’s such a shame if they don’t get that live experience. I really do think it’s so important that they at least get a taste of it to see what it’s like. If the world is a stage, then theatre is a good place to start.
Where did you begin on your path to musical theatre?
I was in the NYMT (National Youth Music Theatre) and oh my word, I’d recommend it! It lets you form good relationships with others and is such a fulfilling experience. You get given responsibility that you might normally shy away from when you're young. However when you're given it, you step up to the mark and realise exactly what you're capable of. Everyone’s the same age and it gives you an amazing place to learn.
You’ve been very successful. What would be your top tip for someone looking to follow in your shoes?
The only thing I could say is 'do you know how long it’s taken me to get here'! It took me fifteen years to get the ‘big break’ so to speak. I’d say it’s literally down to repetition; there’s no rocket science behind it – it’s just the practise of something over and over again. If you can do it a thousand times – the difference between that and the first ten or twenty times makes for a massive difference. The hardest bit is finding what you feel most passionately about; there’s a lot of stuff I don’t feel that passionately about and I really wouldn’t be good at. I would never want to be in something like Cats for example, but I’m now at Top Hat and that’s because tap dancing is really the one for me. That’s the thing, you have to hold out for the right thing for you; it’s never your fault, it’s what’s right for you – not what you’re right for. When those opportunities come up, you have to take them to see what works for you. Try and do things that make you feel stupid and silly; even the bad ones count for something. You need to know what you are not before you can know what you are. Sometimes you have to do those bad jobs before you realise exactly what you want to do – the main thing is don’t be afraid to give something a go and fail. Failure is the best thing you can go through.
You can see Tom Chambers in Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre as part of Kids Week.
One child under sixteen can attend with every paying adult during performances between 1 - 31 August.
To take advantage of the offer, visit here