Brian Beacom

TOM Chambers’ story is a remarkable life lesson; work hard to achieve your dream . . .

But don’t be surprised if it comes about in the most surprising way.

Tom won Strictly in 2008, but was already TV famous for his roles in Casualty and Holby City.

However, the actor reveals he once came so close to giving up acting altogether he filled in forms to become a fireman.

And then a strange series of events came about.

“I had come out of drama school and done lots of jobs over the years while waiting for the acting break.

“I worked as a window cleaner, in bars, everything. And by the age of 27 I reckoned I just wasn’t going to make it.”

He had given his all. “I had been so determined to land work in musical theatre I made a 1,000 tapes of me dancing in Hollywood musical style and sent them out all across Britain and America.

“But nothing happened. I reckoned I needed steady work, so I went along to the local fire station to get the necessary forms to join.”

What happened next sent Tom’s mind reeling.

“I was just putting the forms under the seat of my little 125cc motorbike when the phone rang.

“It was my agent telling me Holby City were asking me to come along for an audition.”

Tom couldn’t work out why. The actor who’d dreamed of a musical theatre career had sent out dancing tapes.

“It turned out the TV producers were looking for someone to play an American doctor.

“When they saw me going through my Fred Astaire routines they assumed I was American and called me in.”

Tom landed the role. And went on to become a TV success story.

The television fame then brought him to the attention of the producers of Strictly.

Tom of course went on to storm the show, revealing the dance talent that had until then been kept quite from the world.

And when he won the show it alerted the nation’s musical theatre producers. Tom not only had talent; he could put bums on seats.

Before he knew it, he was hired to star in a touring production of Top Hat.

“It was amazing,” he says of the career switch. “I couldn’t believe it had all happened.”

Now, his dance theatre career continues. Tom comes to Glasgow this week to star in multi-award-winning Gershwin Brothers Crazy For You.

The west end hit tells the story of Bobby Child, a would-be Broadway hoofer whose dreams of dancing with the Follies are dashed by a bungled audition?

And as well as having to contend with a boring day job he has a girlfriend, Irene, (played by fellow Strictly contestant Caroline Flack) whom he doesn’t love.

And things become nicely complicated when Bobby is sent by his mother on a mission to close the failing Gaiety Theatre in Nevada.

The theatre is a mess, the proprietor’s daughter, Polly.

Can Bobby save the theatre? Can he find love with Polly?

“It’s a fantastic story,” says Tom. “Crazy For You is probably my favourite musical of all time.

“It’s one of the first ones I ever saw, when I was about 15 or 16. Although it’s still Golden Era, the part is more classic Gene Kelly than Fred Astaire. Where Top Hat was very dapper and sophisticated and clipped, this is a bit more relaxed. And the script is just so funny.”

He adds; “All the actors are playing their own instruments on stage, there is just so much going on, then on top of that you have the Gershwin songs too.”

Tom admits the dance routines are gruelling. “I have to be fit for the role,” he says. “It’s like Gene Kelly meets Tarzan for this part.”

What’s surprising to learn is that Derbyshire-born Tom wasn’t a stage-struck child, the type who’d begin to sign at the opening of a fridge door.

“That wasn’t me at all,” he says, grinning.

“I had never performed at all, except I did dance a bit on the wooden floors at home. I pretended I was tap dancing, but no one noticed.

“Then when I was eleven I was playing football at school and one teacher told us we had to appear in the school play – or else.

“I found myself playing Dracula in a musical and I really enjoyed the experience.”

Playing the un-dead brought the idea of becoming an actor to life. Tom went on to join the national Youth Music Theatre before going on to drama college.

Now, he’s a musical theatre star.

“It’s amazing how it’s all turned out,” he says. “But what I do know is I’m glad I sent out those tapes.

“And I’m so glad I had the chance to do Strictly. If not for that I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

* Crazy For You, The King’s Theatre, Tuesday until Saturday.