He is just 22 and yet Liverpudlian Tommy Sherlock has a fair amount of acting experience to his name. He has appeared on television in The League Of Gentlemen, toured the world in Mamma Mia! and travelled round the UK starring in Footloose The Musical. Now he is bringing his performance in Footloose to London, making his West End debut in the lead role of dance-crazy Ren McCormack at the Playhouse theatre. But it’s no picnic – what with knee injuries and throwing up mid-show, the role of Ren in Footloose is one of musical theatre’s most physically demanding. You gotta love it, Sherlock tells Caroline Bishop…
How are you feeling about making your West End debut?
TS: Very, very excited. It’s obviously what a performer aspires to, to work in the West End. I was very unlucky on the last job [Footloose on tour] with injuries and stuff, so I’m kind of grateful that they wanted me back and wanted me to play the role. I’m really looking forward to it. I basically did the same injury twice, to both knees, so I was a bit [unsure] whether they were going to give me my job back.
So the show is very hard on the body then?
TS: It’s very hard, very demanding. I have a few people standing by ready to go on just in case anything happens. It’s very rewarding at the same time.
What is your favourite thing about being the show?
TS: Just playing the role and being on stage. I kind of don’t leave the stage for a good two hours so I get to show off everything that I can do, and I just get to have a great time – by the end of the show everyone is on their feet and it’s great. It’s such a feel-good show.
What is Ren like?
TS: He’s a city kid, he’s streetwise, he’s moved from Chicago to this hick town, Bomont, in the middle of nowhere, so he kind of brings his attitude from Chicago all the way down to Bomont and it doesn’t bode well with any of the new people. He’s a young teenager, just finishing school. When he gets there he sees a girl he really likes and knows he can’t go there because it’s the minister’s daughter, and him and the minister don’t hit it off straight away, which isn’t to his advantage.
He’s a very energetic, youthful character. He’s very much the rebel. Basically he’s trying to bring what he loves of Chicago to this town. He loves to party, he loves to go out, he loves to play music and of course as soon as he gets to Bomont he finds all this has been banished.
Are you like him?
TS: I’m like him in that I’m energetic and I love to dance, but I’m not so much the rebel, so it’s great. You always read about film actors – they always want to play the baddie and it’s always fun to play the fool or the baddie, so it’s good to bring out my mean streak on stage for a couple of hours a night!
How did you get to be in Footloose?
TS: I got the call from my agent saying can you come and audition, and after God knows how many auditions, they finally said yeah can you come and play the role. I hadn’t heard for about a week about the role so I was ready to let it be that I hadn’t got it. I was working in a bar and they phoned me and said can you come back in tomorrow morning? I didn’t finish work until two in the morning and they had sent me a song and two new scenes to learn! So that night I didn’t sleep, I stayed up all night rehearsing because I really wanted the part. I learnt the song, learnt the scenes and was in at 10 in the morning to audition for [director and choreographer] Karen Bruce! I wanted a large, large beer!
You have toured the UK in Footloose already – what is the experience of touring like?
TS: We had a five month tour planned – I think I missed a month and a half, two months with my knee injury, I had to have two minor operations on my knees.
Touring is hard because we did weekly venues. A lot of tours, they stay in places for about four or five weeks, but we changed every venue every week.
I’ve been on tour since I left college now because Mamma Mia! was the international world tour. It’s your only family, you don’t get to go home for months and months at a time. When you’re on tour you’ve got no one but everyone else in the cast – you rely on people to talk to you and to have fun with. It becomes like a little family group. It’s a great atmosphere.
You do miss your family of course, because on the end of the [phone] line it’s not the same as being in person, to be able to spend time with them.
How do you prepare for the show each day?
TS: I have my own dressing room and I make sure I’ve got all my own labelled water because people have a tendency to just take a swig of anyone’s water, because any water you can get is great; but I have my own water beside the stage and I usually take a couple of Berrocca, and all kinds of fruit… because it takes so much out of you when you dance. I try and have a jacket potato in my room in the interval. It’s very demanding on the body – for the first couple of weeks when I was doing it, sometimes I’d vomit just before the mega-mix. The megamix itself is 20 minutes long, it’s very demanding.
You must really love it then, to want to put yourself through that…
TS: You’d never get through it otherwise! We’re pretty crazy, us musical theatre bunch – who else would do it?! Unless you love it there’s no way you’d get through it.
Was being the West End always your aim in life?
TS: Yeah, it was always my aim, throughout college, to be in a professional company, to work in the West End. Being on tour as well is still great because it’s just the same thing, but obviously it’s looked on as the crème de la crème, doing the West End, so it’s such an honour, and especially for my West End debut to be playing the lead, I can’t believe it really!
What advice would you give to others who want to do what you are doing?
TS: Work hard, work really hard. There’s always someone who’s willing to step into your place and will step into your place if you don’t work hard. You can easily fall behind, you can easily lose what you’ve got, so work hard, train well and be yourself – be a nice person; it always helps to be nice to people!
What are your future ambitions after this?
TS: Before I got into musical theatre I did a couple of TV films and I was in a few things, The League Of Gentlemen… I’d really like to get back into TV and film, but at the moment I’m just loving dancing and performing.
I get to do a lot of straight acting in Footloose. Even though it’s about this guy Ren who wants to dance, there’s a lot of meaty stuff, there’s actually a lot of good stuff to get your teeth into.
To read how Tommy got on during his first night in the West End, go to our blog, .