Caroline Flack crazy for musical debut ahead of Norwich homecoming

Caroline Flack stars as Irene in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport

Caroline Flack stars as Irene in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

Caroline Flack is coming back to her native Norfolk this autumn, swapping Love Island for starring in her debut stage musical, Crazy For You, alongside fellow Strictly winner Tom Chambers.

Caroline Flack is returning to Norfolk as she makes her stage musical debut in Crazy For You. Photo:

Caroline Flack is returning to Norfolk as she makes her stage musical debut in Crazy For You. Photo: Nathan Pask - Credit: Nathan Pask

Caroline Flack knows all about troubled romances after her eight-week stint presenting Love Island, the most watched and talked about TV show of the summer.

The source of many a heated water-cooler conversation, the show was all about relationships going wrong, or right. So it is fitting that she is making her theatrical debut playing Irene, a woman whose love life is also bumpy, in hit musical Crazy For You.

'She's strong. She knows what she wants. But there's a vulnerability,' says the Norfolk-born presenter turned actress. 'She gets hurt the whole way through, but she's brilliantly defiant. She stays strong and doesn't give up. She's naughty as well.'

The show, which comes to Norwich Theatre Royal next month and to Ipswich early next year, is a joyful, romantic musical comedy packed with fantastic Gershwin songs.

Caroline Flack as Irene, Tom Chambers as Bobby and Kate Milner-Evans as Lottie Child in Crazy For Yo

Caroline Flack as Irene, Tom Chambers as Bobby and Kate Milner-Evans as Lottie Child in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport


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It tells the story of Bobby, a banker sent to close down a failing theatre and who falls for the daughter of the building's proprietor despite being engaged to the feisty Irene.

'This is the sort of person I'd like to be in real life,' says Caroline. 'I'm not a very feisty person so I get to live out all my feistiness through Irene. I've wanted to do this for years.'

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The cast includes Casualty and Holby City star Tom Chambers, who built his stage reputation leading the casts of Top Hat and White Christmas, and West End star Charlotte Wakefield.

It is a reunion of sorts for Flack and Chambers. Both have won Strictly Come Dancing — Caroline raised the glitterball trophy in 2014 with her dance partner Pasha Kovalev — and both have starred together when show's live version toured the country.

Tom Chambers as Bobby with the company in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport

Tom Chambers as Bobby with the company in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

'I went on tour with Tom for two months when we did Strictly. He's like a kind of older brother figure and he looked out for me the whole time so as soon as I found out he was doing the show I was like yes this is going to be great.'

He has supported her when she was nervous and has been the ideal person to have around as she makes your professional theatre debut, she admits.

It was her time on Strictly that reignited her ambition to perform on stage. It was an ambition she had held since childhood.

Growing up near Thetford with her brother Paul, sister Elizabeth and twin Jo, Caroline attended Great Hockham Primary and then Wayland High School in Watton, where she was a keen member of its dance group The Gug.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dZE_qWi20A

At 16 she left Norfolk to study music and theatre for three years at Bodywork Company in Cambridge. 'It's the only real qualification I have,' she laughs.

She then made the move to London but her ambition to perform on stage morphed into a presenting career.

Her first big break came playing Bubbles on sketch show Bo'Selecta in 2002 which led to a series of presenting jobs for a variety of music and entertainment shows and children's television. Her breakthrough came on the ITV2 spin off show of I'm a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here and then in 2011 she joined the X Factor team – firstly as presenter of the Xtra Factor, and then working on the main show itself.

They're projects she clearly loved, but that eagerness to get back to the theatre was always lurking. Quite simply, she says, 'I love the stage.'

Caroline Flack as Irene in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport

Caroline Flack as Irene in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

'It wasn't just a case of wanting to be on stage, it was wanting to be on stage but doing the right thing,' she explains.

So why was this Watermill Theatre production of Crazy For You the show that brought her back to the theatre? The answer is that playing Irene gives her the opportunity to get to grips with a character rather than worrying about leading an entire show singlehandedly. And, in a show packed with glorious songs like I Got Rhythm and They Can't Take That Away From Me, she has a fantastic solo number.

'As soon as I heard Naughty Baby,' she enthuses, 'I thought 'Yes, this is great.''

Choreographer Nathan M Wright has created a new routine specifically for her. She can't give too much away, but she does say it 'plays to my strengths,' and uses a piano and rope. 'It's saucy and suggestive, but not too naughty,' she laughs.

Caroline Flack plays Irene opposite Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport

Caroline Flack plays Irene opposite Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

Handily for an actor about to set off on a tour around the country, she's a fan of the nomadic life. 'I'm a traveller at heart,' she grins. 'There is so much more to the UK than London and I don't get to see it enough, so I'm massively excited.'

Push her a little harder on where she's most excited about visiting, though, and the 'born traveller' outlook fades, just a touch. 'Norwich,' she says. 'It's my home town.' It's not that she's looking for home comforts, but that performing for an audience filled with family and friends will be a special occasion. 'We're planning some fun dinners afterwards,' she laughs.

She says her parents visit her in London a lot and that she tries to get back to Norfolk when she can. 'But it's hard when you work weekends all the time.'

She's also looking forward to the show's northern dates. 'I think there's something in me that should have been northern,' she giggles. 'It's very friendly up in the north. With the Strictly Come Dancing tour, the more northern you got, the more excitable the crowds were.'

Tom Chambers as Bobby and Charlotte Wakefield as Polly in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport

Tom Chambers as Bobby and Charlotte Wakefield as Polly in Crazy For You. Photo: Richard Davenport - Credit: Richard Davenport

Having worked on both Strictly and X Factor, has she sought dance or vocal advice from any of those shows' experts? 'All my experts are standing in front of me in this production,' she replies. 'I only have to ask them.'

And she is relishing being part of an ensemble cast. With Strictly her success revolved around just two people. When she's presenting, it's often just Flack 'on a sofa, chatting to someone'. 'With Crazy For You you've got 30 people all working together,' she says.

And she is relishing the team ethos that comes with being part of a musical production — the cast themselves are playing the instruments. 'Everyone says' that they're going to teach me something by the end of the tour. I am aiming for the drums,' she laughs.

• Crazy For You is at Norwich Theatre Royal from October 31 to November 1, £37.50-£8, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.ukNO FRIGHT AT STAGE DEBUT

Nerves isn't something that usually bothers Caroline, but she admits to being a little daunted at the prospect of her professional debut in a show. 'I was nervous going into rehearsals as it was something I trained for a long time ago, before falling into presenting.'

But she is used to dealing with pre-show anxiety. While she may not have performed in a musical before, she's an old hand at live TV. The nerves never kick in until just before you start, she explains. 'An hour before, they suddenly hit.' They come with a 'good sickie feeling,' she says. 'I have a little mantra I say to myself. It's never changed. I say that in my head and then I get on with it.'

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