Theatre Interview: Charlotte Wakefield, Crazy For You, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: West End Frame
Image Source: West End Frame

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Crazy For You dates back to 1992, when it first came to life on Broadway. Since then, the show has received several incarnations around the world, including two runs on the West End. Now, the production is touring the UK, and the Liverpool Empire Theatre is about to experience the show for the first time. We spoke to Charlotte Wakefield, one of the key performers in Crazy For You, to discuss the show, her character Polly Baker, and her successful theatre career thus far!

First of all, tell us about the plot of Crazy For You.

It’s a story of love and mistaken identity. It’s about a town in Nevada called Deadrock, and they have a fantastic theatre which is in disrepair. I play Polly Baker, and her family has a theatre, but they can’t keep up with the payments on the mortgage. And then you’ve got Tom Chambers who plays Bobby Child; he’s a banker in New York, and he is sent to Nevada to claim the theatre for the bank. It then turns into this brilliant love story, which features lots of slapstick humour in an attempt to save the theatre. It’s a great show with a great story.

Tell us more about your character Polly Baker.

Polly Baker is a headstrong, feisty cowgirl, essentially. She’s the only woman living in a town of all men, who work very hard and who are very lazy, and she runs the theatre/post office. So, she’s a feisty, independent woman, and she falls in love!

Have you always been a fan of theatre?

Oh, absolutely! I grew up going to the theatre, listening to Disney movies and watching all the films on video, as it was then. I grew up loving the theatre, and also doing this; I’ve worked professionally as an actor since I was 10, so I’ve been doing this a very, very long time. I just love it!

I understand you have appeared in such television shows as The Royal, Waterloo Road and Holby City before you broke into theatre?

Yeah! So I started in film, and then I moved into television. I did things like The Royal, and then I was a semi-regular on Holby City, and I’ve done Waterloo Road, big BBC dramas. So, I’ve been involved in a few areas. The one thing I haven’t done is radio; one day, I will do radio! As I say, I was a semi-regular in Holby City for 9 months, so Tom Chambers and I come from the same world! (Laughs)

On the subject of television, would you ever be interested in appearing on any reality shows, and if so which ones?

No, not really. For me, theatre is enough! (Laughs) Obviously, Tom did extremely well on Strictly Come Dancing, but for me, I feel like I am happy pretending to be somebody else. Maybe one day, I might be asked to do Strictly, that would be lovely! But for now, I think I am happy playing other people! (Laughs) I do like watching them; I do watch Strictly and all of those reality TV shows, and they’re fantastic, but I think that right now, they’re not for me!

What would you consider to be the highlights of your career in theatre thus far?

I have two Laurence Olivier award nominations, and they are often described as being the Oscars for theatre, so it’s pretty intense. I got my first nomination when I was 19, and I got my second nomination when I was 22. The first one was for Spring Awakening in the West End, and the second one was for playing Maria in The Sound Of Music, which was in an open-air theatre. For me, it was confirmation that I should be doing this, because I had no training; I kind of got into theatre by accident, so it was affirmation for me that I deserved to be here. I worked really hard, and it was brilliant to be in the company of the finest actors in our industry. So, I think that would definitely be the highlight for me.

What are the biggest shows that you’ve performed in to date?

Well, they’ve all been pretty big actually, I’ve been really lucky! Spring Awakening was pretty big; that came over from Broadway in 2008 with the original London company. That took a year-and-a-half to cast, so that was quite intense. I’ve done Mamma Mia: I did Mamma Mia on the international tour and then in the West End. Then, I did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang last year. So, I’ve been lucky; all of the shows that I’ve done have been on a pretty big scale. I’m very lucky! (Laughs)

What are your future ambitions within theatre?

I’ve been very lucky to have ticked off a lot of my dream roles. It just depends on the way I’m going. I love creating roles; I would love to originate a character and work on something that’s new. So, just keeping on the same path that I’m going, really. I’d love to eventually be a household name in theatre, that would be lovely. I think everybody dreams of that. Like I say, I’ve been very lucky so far, and I would be happy to continue the way that I’m going.

Finally, why should the Liverpool audience come to see Crazy For You?

It gives you everything that you could possibly ever want. There is a brilliant story, fantastic comedy, the song-list is endless, and the live music is being played by the ensemble live on stage. Now, this is what we call an actor-musician show, so the ensemble play all of the instruments; the orchestra all perform live on stage which you can see, so that is very special, as you don’t get that in every musical. So, if you want a fantastic night at the theatre and also to be blown away by the level of talent amongst us guys, then come and see Crazy For You; it’ll be fabulous!

Crazy For You runs at Liverpool Empire Theatre from Tuesday December 5 to Saturday December 9. To book your tickets, click here.