BWW Interview: Carrie Hope Fletcher Talks THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Carrie Hope Fletcher has starred in numerous musicals, including Les Miserables, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and has also published two books. She's currently playing Wednesday Addams in the UK premiere of Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman and Rice Elice's musical The Addams Family, which has just begun its nationwide tour.
What was the first musical you saw?
Music was always part of our lives - my dad plays guitar and sings in pubs and clubs. My parents both love musicals, and me and my mum are Disney obsessed. We always had some kind of musical playing in the background, and me and my brother [Tom Fletcher of McFly] would sing along in the car. I remember loving Beauty and the Beast on stage - all the girls wanted to be Belle!
Were you a natural performer?
I liked being characters rather than being myself; I could hide behind a character and become a different person. I was actually quite shy at school - I took a back seat, and I was terrified to put my hand up in class - but I was first in line for the school plays.
Acting can be escapism, a way of getting away from your own situation and insecurities. Someone asked me whether it's hard performing if I've had a bad day or I'm stressed out, but actually that's the best time to go play a character.
When did you think seriously about a career?
I always knew it was the thing I wanted to do with my life - acting and singing is always where I've felt most comfortable. When I was younger and I did West End shows like Les Mis, Mary Poppins and Chitty, I was blissfully ignorant - it was amazing to be a part of, but I didn't realise the scale of it all and how important a role it would play in my life when I grew up. It was just a fun thing I'd do every couple of days. Looking back, it was pretty cool: I had a flying car, a flying nanny and I was part of the revolution!
And of course you've revisited two of those shows in different parts
Yes, going back into them later on was brilliant. I've done two out of three - just Mary Poppins to go... Eponine was interesting, because it was me as an adult looking back at my childhood experience just as she was - it did give me a little bit of insight.
Did you consider drama school?
Well, I really enjoyed drama classes at school, but I left at 16 and started writing a musical with my brother. Because of that I missed out on going to college in general - it was take that chance or not and maybe miss out on something incredible. Through that I met a producer who liked my voice and when we were in workshops for the musical he set up meetings - from there I met Curtis Brown.
I haven't noticed much difference from people who went to drama school. I picked up things doing shows as a child and being thrown in the deep end - nothing prepares you for doing eight shows a week. And there's lots you learn from watching in the wings. So it all worked out. And we're still in talks for that musical!
How important is writing to you?
I write books and songs and all sorts of bits and pieces on the side. It's important to have that creative outlet - I'm really passionate about it. I love playing all these roles, collaborating with the director and cast, and then having complete creative control over something. I get bored very, very quickly, so I'm always looking for new things. I read a lot, and I'm constantly inspired by other authors.
Are you interested in doing more new work?
If I was given the opportunity I'd jump at it. I grew up with these amazing shows, like Les Mis, Phantom, Joseph, Wicked, and if I ever had the chance to work with an established composer on a new piece, that would be a real honour. It's exciting hearing new voices as well - we really need that.
How well did you know the Addams Family beforehand?
I grew up with the films. I'm a big fan of dark humour - I love Tim Burton and The Munsters. I didn't realise there was an Addams Family musical until about four years ago, when Andrew Lippa did a concert in London and I sang Wednesday's song "Pulled". I couldn't believe I didn't know the musical, so I researched everything I could, and then when I heard about the UK tour I said to my agent "Please, please, I have to do this".
It's quite a different part for you - what's that been like?
Yes, it's something I've never done - she's drastically different from any other role in musical theatre, let alone the ones I've played. She's dark, weird, creepy, kooky...it's been great fun in rehearsal trying things out.
Can you identify with her?
There is a lot of Wednesday in me. I can identify with who she is and that dark style, so it's not reaching too far. In this show she's fallen in love, and love is a universal thing, whether you're an Addams or a "normal" person. Everyone's been in that situation, so I'm drawing on me as a teenager falling madly in love for the first time. It's terrifying and exciting and a whole mess of emotions.
Wednesday's more used to torturing her little brother, so this is all new for her. She's worried that who's she fallen in love with won't be accepted by her family and vice versa. I can definitely relate, and I think everyone else will too. I've never been part of an original cast as an adult, so it's a real honour playing this character and introducing her to British audiences.
How would you describe the score?
The music is unbelievable - it's one of the best scores I've ever had the pleasure of singing. It's such an amazing amalgamation of different genres. Each character is so vastly different from the others, so we all have our own ways of expressing emotion through song, but it blends so well. There are some incredible musical moments in the show. There's literally nothing you can compare it to - it's such a breath of fresh air, so new and unique. I think it'll make it a real impact.
Did you seek out the Broadway version?
The Broadway cast are absolutely unbelievable. I've definitely taken inspiration from Krysta Rodriguez, who played Wednesday. But this UK version of the show is very different, so there's lots of room to play. There's been some rewriting, new songs - some that were taken out and put back in - and a whole new creative team on board, a new sound and look. Our designer Diego [Pitarch] came up with some incredible ideas.
What's your favourite number to perform?
"Crazier Than You", which I sing with Oliver Ormson - he plays my boyfriend Lucas. It's all about our connection, even though we seem really different.
What do you like about touring?
I really love exploring - going round all the new theatres and seeing all the new towns and cities. It's fun figuring out the routes backstage, each new rabbit warren of corridors. It keeps the show fresh, and there's that little bit of fear not knowing where you're going and what it'll be like, which you usually get over very quickly as everyone is so welcoming.
Any dream roles for the future?
I'd love to do Wicked one day. I've heard Waitress is making its way over and I can't stop listening to that soundtrack - I'm obsessed with it! Shows like that with strong female roles you can really get your teeth into it are so exciting.
Do you consider the impact you might have on female fans when choosing roles?
I suppose Wednesday is a bit of an odd case in that sense, but I definitely think girls can relate to her - I've had lots of Tweets from people saying how much they love her! The whole show is about "What is normal?" - everyone's idea of it is different, so normal doesn't really exist. You should do whatever feels natural and not worry about conforming or being judged. I think that's a really positive message.
Are there actresses you look up to?
Yes, loads. People like Lea Salonga - I love her voice, and she really went after roles, even when it was tough. You think "If she can do it, there's no reason I can't." That determination and work ethic really inspires me.
Finally, any advice for budding performers?
Get as much practice as you can, whether it's school, drama groups, am dram, anything. Be cheeky and ask questions. If there are people you admire with more experience, message them on social media - you might get a really good nugget of advice. Don't be afraid to send your CV to anyone who might be able to help. That's how I got my first agent: I wrote to the casting director of Doctor Who, and the agent who looks after that casting director read my letter and asked me to come in.
There are always going to be difficult decisions. Sometimes you'll be turned down for something you really want and you'll get something you're not sure you're right for, but it might open the door to something great. Always take opportunities - you never know where it might lead.
Photo credit: Darren Bell, Craig Sugden, Matt Martin