We caught up with television and theatre performer Claire Sweeney as she prepared to take on the role of Irene Roth in the UK tour of Crazy For You, alongside Casualty and Strictly Come Dancing star Tom Chambers and Olivier Award nominee Charlotte Wakefield.
What attracted you to the role of Irene Roth in Crazy For You?
Well, she’s just a great character, and she’s such a vamp, isn’t she? Plus she has that fantastic number ‘Naughty Baby’ in Act II which is a dream to sing. She’s a very glamorous woman with a bit of an edge to her, which is the sort of character I love to play.
How would you sum her up as a character, and how she fits into the storyline?
Irene is very sophisticated, and she thinks knows exactly what she wants when it comes to her life and love. But in practice, she completely goes for the opposite of what she originally wanted in terms of the man she ends up with.
As far as her fitting into the storyline, at the start of the show she is engaged to Bobby, Tom Chambers’ character, and the audience sees the pitfalls of their relationship. Ultimately the biggest problem is when he discovers love elsewhere when he travels across America. He then meets Polly, played by Charlotte Wakefield, in a town called Deadrock, Nevada and there everything changes for him, and Irene.
Do you find performing on stage different to working in other mediums like TV?
Oh, it’s a completely different style between theatre and TV. I love them both very much equally, but they are totally different. There’s obviously a difference between presenting on TV like I have on Loose Women among others, and the theatre, but also acting for television and acting on stage requires different techniques.
Were you familiar with the Gershwin brothers’ songbook, which makes up the music of Crazy For You before you joined the show?
Absolutely. It was the Gershwin score that made me really want to play Irene – anything Gerswhin is fantastic. And in fact, I remember seeing Crazy For You the first time around with Ruthie Henshall playing Polly, Charlotte Wakefield’s role. The music is just great and I absolutely loved it then and I still love it now!
So do you have a favourite Gershwin piece of music or song? ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’. It’s just beautiful. I get to perform ‘Naughty Baby’ so I’m really looking forward to that one as well!
You have toured with plenty of shows in the past, do you have any tricks to make it easier and are there any aspects of touring you particularly enjoy? The more your tour you start to collect some great places to stay along the way, places I know I want to go back to and which make it feel more comfortable. Nice accommodation always makes life easier when you’re travelling a lot.
Where does your love of musical theatre come from? Well it’s not something that I was brought up with. However, I think my real love of it came from seeing Blood Brothers years ago, which I absolutely loved and from there I fell in love with musical theatre.
Do you have any pre or post show rituals? Pre-show my ritual is steaming to clear my voice, a good vocal warm up and of course a physical warm up to be ready to give the best performance possible in the show.
After the show my main ritual is having a nice cup of tea! That is a great way to wind down after a performance.
Are you looking forward to working with Charlotte Wakefield and Tom Chambers?Charlotte and I are great pals and had lots of fun working together on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. So I’m really looking forward to being on tour with her again. It is always so good to work with your mates.
I’m really looking forward to working with Tom Chambers for the first time. He’s such a great guy and in fact I’ve never seen him perform on stage before so it has been such a revelation to see him as Bobby. He is incredibly talented, he’s sensational at what he does and such a nice guy as well!
What is your favourite thing about touring with a show, and do you have any advice for it? It’s great getting to see the country and to spend time in lots of wonderful towns and cities, and being able to explore them but I would advise only doing it if you don’t mind being away from home!
Do you have a favourite musical? Oh, my favourite musical is probably the brilliant Guys & Dolls, which I have been lucky enough to perform in.
Do you have any dream roles you’d love to play? Going back to the reason I really got in to musical theatre, I would love to play Mrs Johnson in Blood Brothers, or someone mean like Miss Hannigan in Annie would be really great fun as well!
What can audiences coming to see Crazy For You expect from the show? They will be surprised with how many of the brilliant Gershwin songs they know and are familiar with that are in the show. There is lots of laughter, pathos and wonderful performances. The cast are super talented, I’ve never done an actor musician show before and to work in a show where the band are on stage is amazing. You can see just how incredibly talented these people are as they sing, dance, act and play instruments on stage.
The tour stops in Woking, does this venue have any significance for you?
I’ve done many shows and pantos in Woking, and it’s great. There’s lots of shopping at The Peacocks and it is commutable back to London and to home which is always lovely.