INTERVIEW: Musical star Carrie sets her sights on Alnwick's Hogwarts

Carrie Hope Fletcher (Truly Scrumptious) and Lee Mead (Caractacus Potts) during the song Toot Sweets in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Carrie Hope Fletcher (Truly Scrumptious) and Lee Mead (Caractacus Potts) during the song Toot Sweets in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

YouTube sensation and rising star of musical theatre, Carrie Hope Fletcher, has revealed she would love to visit Alnwick to see 'Hogwarts'.

Until last week, Carrie, who admits being Harry Potter potty, had never been to Newcastle, but she has been winning Geordie hearts with her fantastic portrayal of Truly Scrumptious as the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stops off at the Theatre Royal.

Alnwick Castle, which was Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films. Picture by Jane Coltman

Alnwick Castle, which was Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films. Picture by Jane Coltman

It is a far cry from her previous role as Eponine in Les Miserables in the West End, where she stayed put in one theatre.

"Touring is a whole ordeal of its own, moving from place to place," the 23-year-old told the Gazette in an exclusive interview. "I love seeing every new city. It is lovely to have the chance to go somewhere I wouldn't necessarily have thought of going to before.

"The architecture in Newcastle is absolutely gorgeous - there is a place here that looks like Gringotts [Wizarding Bank] in Harry Potter."

And she vowed to visit Alnwick Castle, which doubled up as Hogwarts in the early Potter films.

Carrie as Truly Scrumptious

Carrie as Truly Scrumptious

Carrie couldn't have chosen a more contrasting part after Eponine.

"This is the other end of the spectrum completely. In Les Mis, everyone ends up crying because everyone dies, but here we all get a happy ending - it's lovely. It's so nice to play a character that doesn't die.

"Les Mis is one of those shows that everyone loves - it's been going for over 30 years for a reason," she said. "It's such a joy to work in and such a tight-knit family, even when you leave.

She played alongside Peter Lockyer, as Jean Valjean, and Phil Daniels, as Thenardier, whom she described as 'an absolute dream, barking mad, but an absolute dream'.

Lee Mead and Carrie Hope Fletcher

Lee Mead and Carrie Hope Fletcher

In Chitty, Carrie shares the stage with Lee Mead, as Caractacus Potts, Eastenders and Coronation Street star Michelle Collins, as Baroness Bomburst, and another ex-Eastender Shaun Williamson, as the Baron.

There is a magical symmetry about her stage career so far.

As a seven-year-old, she landed the role of young Eponine, before moving on to Jemima Potts, the little girl in Chitty, then Jane Banks, one of the children in Mary Poppins.

Spookily, her adult career has seen her play older Eponine and Truly Scrumptious. If the sequence continues, destiny will hand her the part of Poppins.

"Eponine was like the Holy Grail for me when I was growing up, but I'd love to play Poppins. Who knows, one day, it would be lovely.

"If you pin all your hopes on one thing and it doesn't work out - what happens then. You've got to be very flexible and very versatile."

Incredibly, Carrie has received no formal training in musical theatre. She almost fell into the limelight. Her brother Tom Fletcher, who is a singer-songwriter and guitarist with McFly and McBusted, attended the famous Sylvia Young Theatre School.

"When I went with my parents to pick up my brother, they said would your daughter be interested in a part, and, as a two-year-old I said: 'Yes please!'"

She subsequently appeared in a couple of commercials, for Cheerios and McDonald's.

"In the Cheerios advert, I was Little Red Riding Hood and Kelsey Grammer was the voice of the Big Bad Wolf. It's on YouTube if anyone wants to see it.

"My parents weren't pushy at all, not even a little bit. I wish I had home videos when people ask me that to show them what I was like as a child.

"What I said went when I was a kid, my parents were terrified of me, as was my brother!

"We have no pictures of my mum - she hates being in front of the camera! She is the least pushy person ever. If she went missing we'd have nothing to show the police what she looked like!

"Even me, I hate going on stage as myself. My YouTube videos are just me in a room on my own, but going on stage as Carrie Fletcher is literally my worst nightmare.

"Going on stage as Truly Scrumptious or Eponine is not a problem, as long as their is a charcter in front of me, hiding me, then I'm fine."

Carrie left school at 16 because she was writing a musical with her brother.

They pitched it to film and TV companies, and Universal Records showed interest in it, signing the soundtrack. From then on, Carrie had a producer, who asked whether she'd like to get back into acting.

"It took five years from then to ending up with an agent and that was the time people do their musical theatre training, so I kind of missed the boat," she said.

Carrie speaks very fondly of her brother.

"He's my hero - he's a huge inspiration to me. He is seven years older than me, we were always playing together and singing together.

"I was in all of those shows before McFly was born. Just as I was going into Mary Poppins, McFly had started their career.

Now Carrie is as much a star of YouTube as the musical stage. At the last count, she has an amazing 625,444 subscribers on her YouTube channel ItsWayPastMyBedTime.

"It's a hobby that went happily right - it was really strange," she recalls. "I started when I was 19, posting a cover once a month. I just thought why not, it was a bit of fun.

"I thought that maybe if the right person saw it you never know, and if not, it was getting my voice heard and having a laugh.

"There is a big YouTube community and some of my friends who had more subscribers than me were more into the vlogging and chatting side of it suggested I try it. I gave it a go and it just started snowballing.

"Acting and singing has always been my passion throughout my life but I love having my YouTube channel there because it's something I have complete creative control over and it's a way for me to showcase what I am doing.

"There are so many people who love musical theatre who never get to see what happens backstage and I love to be able to show people behind the curtains.

Carrie is a big fan of social media and has nearly 400,000 followers on Twitter.

"It is ever-changing and no one knows what the rules are. It is like a whole new way of communicating with each other.

"I keep Facebook for family and friends, and Twitter and YouTube are the main ones for me, but there are definitely times when I just want to close the laptop because you can get so into it.

"It's so easy to get so caught up in it that you think that the world exists within the laptop and nowhere else. When I'm in something like Chitty, there just isn't the time to do as much.

"I love engaging with people and having conversation with people I would not necessarily have the chance to meet had we not met online, but sometimes you have to learn not to look and stay away.

Carrie Hope Fletcher has many strings to her bow and can even add author to her cv. Her book, All I Know Now, became a Sunday Times bestseller. A second book, called On The Other Side, comes out in July and she is in the process of writing a third.

But it is her raw acting talent, beautiful voice and infectious personality that will surely make her a huge star.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal resumes tomorrow (Wednesday, June 8) until Sunday, June 12. Performance times are Wednesday at 7.30pm; Thursday, 2pm and 7.30pm; Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm; Sunday, 1pm and 5pm. Tickets are from £23 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge).