By Jeremy Mark.
On the eve of her debut album The Curtain Falls, four solo concerts at Cadogan Hall and with her fourth novel due out this summer, there is no stopping actress, YouTuber, blogger and Sunday Times best-selling author Carrie Hope Fletcher.
Tell us about your debut album, The Curtain Falls…
It’s a collection of musical theatre covers, as there are so many musical theatre songs that I’ve never got to sing and probably will never get to sing, because I’m not suitable for the character who performs them. I’ve included everything from Let It Go from Frozen (I’m a massive Disney fan), to a surprising take on I Dreamed A Dream from Les Mis, to lesser-known, but nonetheless beautiful, songs like No One Else from the Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. The only time I have ever got to sing any of these songs before is in my shower.
Do you have a favourite track?
One that’s very special to me is a version of George Gershwin’s Summertime from Porgy and Bess. It’s the song that began my love of musicals. When I was really young, I’d sing along while my dad played it on his guitar. Even now, whenever there’s a party, it’s a family tradition for us to perform it together, so I asked him to play the guitar on the album version. All the songs on the album have a special meaning to me. Not to sound cheesy, it’s come from a very sentimental place.
You have also recently completed writing your fourth novel, which shares the same title as the album…
Yes, it’s a romance, but also a ghost story, set in a theatre. It’s a totally stagey title. I always write books that I know I would be keen to pick up in a bookshop. For me it’s always about telling a good story. I’ve never really thought about whether anything I write is going to be a bestseller, I’ve been very lucky so far and have extremely supportive and loyal followers across my social media channels. Even if just one person reads The Curtain Falls and enjoys it, I will be happy.
Let’s talk about your solo concerts at Cadogan Hall…
Oh gosh, I’m excited and petrified in equal measure! Usually, when I’m on stage, I have a character to hide behind or a cast to share the spotlight with, whereas here it will just be me, singing and telling stories. I always feel most at ease when I’m chatting away. I get extremely nervous, so I think the key will be pretending to be the character who sings each song. If I’m thinking about me I might break down and cry. I was absolutely astonished that the first two shows sold out in a day, as I had no expectations whatsoever. I don’t want to give too much away, but besides me singing and rabbiting on, there will also be some very special surprises.
You’ve played some epic stage roles, like Eponine in Les Misérables…
I adore Eponine, and have been fortunate to get to play her three times, both as a child and an adult. Apparently, I’m the only actor to have played her at both ages. She is such a feisty, fierce character, who has a horrible past, yet there is this incredible vulnerability about her. I was lucky enough to play her as part of the 30th Anniversary West End company. The Anniversary Gala performance was insane as we were joined by members of the original cast for a special finale. I got to duet with Frances Ruffelle who originated the role of Eponine back in 1985, which was an phenomenal experience as I grew up listening to her version of On My Own on the soundtrack. And then, as the glitter cannons went off at the very end of the show, original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, turned to me and said ‘you were excellent.’ I just burst into tears. I reprised the role for the first ever Dubai production of the show, which again was a wonderful experience, and quite different to London as the version we took over there was the revised staging which doesn’t involve a revolve and Eponine has several costume changes.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is another show you have starred in more than once…
My theatre career seems to go in circles! I played Jemima Potts in the 2002 West End premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, which starred Michael Ball, Brian Blessed and Nichola McAuliffe. It was what made me realise that musical theatre was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I was a child, playing Truly was the dream. I was in awe of her, so when I got the opportunity to play her in the 2016 UK tour, I couldn’t have been happier.
Do you have a favourite role?
That’s a tough question. I do love Eponine, but last year I also got to play Wednesday Addams in the UK premiere tour of Andrew Lippa’s musical version of The Addams Family. That was a really big one for me because I’m such a big fan of The Addams Family. I grew up watching those movies as they came out around the time I was born, and I love Christina Ricci. Wednesday is almost deadpan all the time and doesn’t ever crack a smile, but then in this version of The Addams Family, she finds herself in love, and wanting to smile. The thing about the Addams Family that people always miss is that they’re not sad or miserable, they just find joy in the miserable. They just find happiness in things that normal people don’t find happiness in.
Last Christmas you performed with you brother Tom (McFly, McBusted), in a musical adaptation of his children’s book The Christmasaurus…
I really enjoyed working on that show as I got to play a mean character – school bully Brenda Payne – for once. Although we obviously have the occasional brother/sister squabble, Tom and I have always got on well, despite him being seven years older than me, so it was a great experience.
What’s next for you theatre-wise?
At the end of this year, I’m playing Beth in the 40th Anniversary tour of War of the Worlds, at with Jason Donovan, Newton Faulkner, Adam Garcia and Nathan James. It’s such a wonderful part to play, with the musical’s creator Jeff Wayne leading the charge. I toured with the show last year, and I’m thrilled I’ve been asked to go back to it again.
Did you go to drama school?
No, I went to Northwood College in north west London, which isn’t far from South Harrow, which is where I grew up. While I did well in English, Drama, Music and Art, I barely scraped Cs and Ds in maths and science. You could say I was a pretty average student.
Let’s talk about your YouTube and social media channels – combined, you have over 2 million subscribers and followers…
It’s insane, it really is. Posting videos started as a total accident. I had seen people singing cover versions of songs on YouTube and it looked like fun, so I thought: “Why not?” Then viewers suggested I started doing chatty vlogs, which I did. My first vlog was called ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’! No way did I ever think my videos would be as popular as they are. I received a message the other day from a follower in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea! It’s incredible how social media can connect people in such a unique way.
How did you get into writing books? You’re now a Sunday Times Bestselling author three times over.
It was mainly through the success of my YouTube channel. I’ve always loved writing and making up stories. My first book All I Know Now, which was full of all the silly things I did as a teenager. Since then, I’ve also published three novels, and have a fourth – The Curtain Falls – out in July [CHECK?]. I’ve discovered that Tube and train journeys, for example, are brilliant places to work on writing books. I literally write on the go, and I find it therapeutic, especially after an eight or nine show week if I’m touring with a show.
Your Wikipedia page describes you as ‘singer-songwriter, actor, musician, blogger, author’ –how on earth do you fit everything in? Are you some kind of superwoman?
[Laughs] I wish! I would love to have superpowers, or at least a Time-Turner like Harry Potter. I have so many ideas things I want to do, so I literally make the most of every waking second.
Do you have any burning ambitions left to achieve?
The reality is that for a lot of my life, I’ve simply been in the right place at the right time and had the determination to go for it. I’m really happy with everything I’ve got. Happy being in musical after musical and writing book after book. If this could be my life for the rest of time I’d be very happy.