Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Blue Peter and Radio Manchester

Just a quicky to let you know Faye and Gerard Carey - who plays Lord Farquaad - will be on radio Manchester tomorrow at 2pm.

Then at 5:30pm make sure you tune in to CBBC to see the marvelous Shrek tour cast performing on Blue Peter.

Hopefully I'll be able to record one, or maybe both and add them to the blog over the next few days.

Faye Brookes Oozes Class!

There have been so many fantastic Shrek tour reviews since the show landed at the Palace Theatre in Manchester that I doubt I'll have chance to feature them all.

However I'll do my best to post as many as possible because they are all full of praise for Faye's incredible performance as Princess Fiona.

This next one was written by Mark Smith for the Public Reviews wesbite:

Shrek the Musical

Palace Theatre, Manchester

Based on the popular DreamWorks Animated film, I was curious to see how this family favourite would be adapted for the stage. Shrek the musical, I am pleased to say is brilliant, brimming full with original songs, theatrical ideas and your favourite characters; this is a show not to be missed.

Shrek arrives in his swamp as per the film to find the likes of Pinocchio, Three Little Pigs, the Wicked Witch, and Little Red Riding Hood who have been banished from the town of Duloc by order of Lord Farquaad. Shrek enraged goes off to give Lord Farquaad a piece of his mind and to rid himself of his new pesky neighbours, enroute to the castle he meets donkey. Our unlikely duo set off to rescue the feisty Princess Fiona from the clutches of the dragon, which is brilliantly created and voiced by the ensemble. This relationship between Shrek, Dean Chisnall and Donkey, Idriss Kargbo is the cornerstone of the show and although both are fine performers this relationship does not quite work, it feels forced and clunky in the set up and subsequent adventures between the pair.

Princess Fiona played by Faye Brookes is brilliant, she oozes class in a very talented company, she is everything you want from a Fiona, witty, feisty and very funny.  Her performance, from dance numbers to comedy skits is handled with real confidence and skill. The stand out of the show is Gerard Carey as Lord Farquaad, who plays each scene with a delicious glint in his eye, he is a skilled comic performer who relishes every line and movement, but has the judgment not to take it too far. The simple comic device employed to shorten Lord Farquaad is exploited to its full potential and manages to top itself again, scene after scene.

This is not a show simply for children, there is enough to delight adult audiences with knowing gags and nods to musical theatre. The songs are witty and well-crafted and performed with verve by the cast and the live orchestra was excellent. The award winning design by Tim Hatley is brilliant, the props, costume and stage design is carefully crafted to serve and enhance the storytelling as was the lighting created by Hugh Vanstone.

This is a great night at the theatre and you will leave beaming, as both my children said, this is the best show they have seen and for parents looking for an alternative to the Christmas fare on offer, I suggest you take them to see this feast for the eyes and ears.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Faye's Tour Questions - Part 4

If it wasn't for my heavy cold and sinusitis I would be well on my way to Manchester now, excitedly looking forward to my eighth trip to the swamp and a Christmas chat with Faye. Unfortunately, due to my illness, my trip has been delayed.

Thankfully I managed to exchange my tickets for Saturday 20th December so I don't have too long to wait and am now starting to feel a little better every day, so hopefully I'll be back to full health come next weekend.

I thought now was probably a good time to post the final part of 'Faye's Tour Questions'.

Here Faye tells us how playing Elle Woods was a dream role for her and that she would consider doing another tour but it would have to be a special show. We also hear how a couple of Legally Blonders have swapped Delta Nu for Dagenham.

Tour Question #10
What are your favourite tour memories from Legally Blonde or Shrek?

Faye's Answer
My favourite memories from the Legally Blonde tour was the pure joy I felt from playing the role of Elle. I absolutely loved being Elle Woods.

I was also very lucky to have met my whole world on that job. He is now my EVERYTHING!

Tour Question #11
Other than Gareth, do you keep in touch with anyone from the Legally Blonde tour? 

Faye's Answer
Of course, everyone who I met while doing the Legally Blonde tour continues to work in the same industry, so it's often that our paths cross. 

Tracey Penn and Sophie Isaacs are now apearing in 'Made in Dagenham' together so I will hopefully get the chance to go and support them very soon.

Tour Question #12
What are the chances of you doing another tour in the future?

Faye's Answer
I would really love to do another tour but I think it would have to be a very special show for me to be apart of. 


Or maybe if the job included playing opposite my lovely man I would definitely be on board!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Jumper Day!

In case you didn't know, today was 'Christmas Jumper Day'. A day when millions wear clothes featuring gargantuan Christmas puddings, pompoms and glued-on googly eyes.

They're not widely considered a particularly alluring item of clothing but Faye has proved that conception very wrong, looking both cute and beautiful with Shrek co star Donkey in the picture below. Who knew it was possible to look THAT good in Christmas jumper?

Clismas Greetings from Fiona & Donkey 

Of course it's not just a gimmick, all money raised from Christmas Jumper Day will go towards a very good cause, helping vulnerable children, both in the UK and abroad.

Home Sweet Home For Faye!

First some more bad news; well for me at least. Unfortunately I've had to postpone my next trip to the swamp :(

I was due to travel to Manchester to see Shrek this weekend but I've come down with a very heavy cold & have been forced to re-arrange my trip for Saturday 20th December.

Hopefully by then I'll be fighting fit & able to give Faye her Christmas present which is already wrapped and ready to go.

Below is another lovely article from the Manchester Evening News in which Faye tells us that performing at the Palace Theatre is likely to be the highlight of her tour.

Urmston Actress Starring in Shrek!

An actress from Trafford is appearing in the touring production of Shrek the Musical that is currently on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. 

Faye Brookes, 27, has taken the starring role of Princess Fiona in the much-anticipated production, which she described as ‘the ideal part’.

She said: “I don’t know what girl wouldn’t love to play her. She is such a strong female character, but she is also a princess.”

Faye was born in Stretford before moving to Urmston in 2006, where her sister still lives. She went to Flixton Junior School before moving on to Knutsford High School, which has a strong reputation for drama. 

Shrek the Musical opened in July in Leeds before going on tour, and Faye said she has very much been looking forward to Manchester

“I think performing in Manchester is going to be the highlight of my tour,” she said. “I used to work in front of house at the Palace Theatre and I can’t believe I am going to be performing on that stage.

“I will be staying with my family when we come to Manchester and it will be great to be in my old room and get to spend time with them.”

After graduating from Knutsford, Faye attended the Guildford School of Acting as she wanted to focus on musicals, and didn’t want to move to London straight away.

Since then she has performed in a number of shows, including Legally Blonde for two years, and she recently finished filming for BBC drama Our Zoo, which tells the story of Chester Zoo.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Happy Birthday Mother Ingrid!

I love these pictures of a proud Mum and her loving daughter.

So lucky to have this Beautiful Lady by my side Happy Birthday Mother Ingrid! MAKE A WISH 

As I've said many times Faye is not just a sensational actress but also a beautiful person and I've no doubt that is partly down to a wonderful upbringing.

Her parents are rightly very proud of what Faye's achieved and the woman she's become but they also deserve great credit because they've obviously been a massive influence in her life.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Mother Ingrid a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bring Back Our Zoo!

It might be a long shot but please sign the Chester Chronicles online petition to bring back Our Zoo for a second series.

How the BBC came to the absurd decision to cancel this fantastic show is quite frankly unfathomable.


Executive Editor Michael Green

We are urging everyone to sign our online petition demanding the BBC changes its mind and commissions a second series of the wonderful TV drama Our Zoo.

The six-part series which ran in September and October captured the hearts of everyone who saw it and even the BBC itself said at the time they considered it a long-term prospect which would take the story of the Mottershead family and the creation of Chester Zoo into the years of the Second World War.

The combination of heartwarming drama and gentle animal-based humour reminded viewers with long memories of the much-loved series All Creatures Great and Small which ran for 12 years from 1978.

The big difference is that All Creatures was shown at family friendly times at the weekend while Our Zoo was broadcast at the ridiculous time of 9pm on Wednesdays – a slot normally occupied by harrowing thrillers like The Fall and The Missing.

Even with this formidable obstacle to overcome, the show never fell below five million viewers and regularly beat ITV’s Scott and Bailey – which was shown at the same time – in the ratings war.
Very few TV dramas truly hit their stride in the first season and Our Zoo simply has not been given the chance to build on what was a very solid foundation.

This show has the potential to become an all-time classic – something which would have enormous benefits for the zoo, for Chester and for the Upton community.

Sign our petition today and let’s see if we can force the BBC to think again.

They'll be no Series 2 for Our Zoo :(

I'm afraid I have some very bad news.

Despite series one being such a massive success the BBC have implausibly decided against a second series for the marvelous TV drama Our Zoo.

Personally I think it's a travesty that such an fantastic show with an incredibly gifted cast won't be back on our screens in 2015; especially when you consider some of the rubbish that seems to come back year after year.

Faye absolutely shoone as Agnes Franklin and proved to be equally captivating on screen as she is on stage. It's such a shame she won't be returning to Upton but hopefully her stunning performance will lead to more TV opportunities in the future.


Our Zoo, the popular and well received TV drama about the history of Chester Zoo will not return for a second series, the BBC has confirmed.

Despite pulling in more than £5m viewers per episode during its six-part run earlier this year, and being nominated for two National TV Awards, BBC1's Our Zoo has not been renewed for another series.

The news will come as a huge disappointment to fans of the show, many of whom described it as 'the best thing on TV in ages'.

But a BBC spokesperson told The Chronicle that although it was 'very proud' of the show, which starred household names Anne Reid and Ralf Little as members of zoo founders the Mottershead family, a 'hard choice' had to be made.

"We are very proud of Our Zoo and would like to thank all those involved," the spokesperson said. "However, in order to create room for new shows and to keep increasing the range of BBC One drama we sometimes have to make hard choices and it will not be returning for a second series."

Just two months ago, Caroline Sanger-Davies, Chester Zoo's Head of Marketing, said the tourist attraction had experienced a huge surge of popularity during the show's primetime run.

"It’s definitely made a big impression," she said at the time. "We’ve gathered postcodes from visitors this September compared to last September and they have really shown a spread of people travelling here from various places. September is very well supported usually but we have definitely seen visitors from further afield which we attribute to the success of Our Zoo.

“It is so lovely to see people standing outside Oakfield Manor having obviously seen the show on TV."

June Williams, who grew up in Chester Zoo after her father George bought it in 1930, made a brief cameo in the series as one of the protesters who were originally against George buying Oakfield Manor.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Urmston Has Talent!

As there are so many glowing reviews of the wonderful Shrek tour from those lucky enough to have seen the show during it's first week at the Palace Theatre, I thought I should waste no time in featuring another here on the blog.

This one was written but Rick Bowen for Messenger Newspapers and as you'll see he was totally captivated by Faye's stunning performance as Princess Fiona.

Shrek - A Monster Hit!

FROM Lynda Baron, the object of Arkwwright's affections in Open All Hours to Matthew Kelly, Urmston has produced some fine actors over the years. 

After watching Shrek - The Musical you can now add the name of Faye Brookes, who plays Princess Fiona, the lovable ogre's love interest, to the list. 

Whether she's singing the incurably catchy score or having fun with our hero, this gifted actress is equally at home when it comes to comedy. She also has a potent chemistry with Dean Chisnall (Shrek) and this is particularly evident when they engage in, what is, to put it mildly, a competition with a difference. 

I was well and truly charmed by the films, with the exception of the final one, and wondered if they could re-create their quirky appeal on stage. My fears were completely unfounded and the Palace Theatre has a huge festive and post-festive hit on its hands. 

All too often, the phrase "family show" is code for dross but in Shrek - The Musical we have a cleverly conceived piece of entertainment that is certain to strike a chord with people aged eight to 80. Some of the jokes are too subtle for the children but there are no cheap laughs here. The script is as witty and as clever as the screenplays of Mike Myers' movies were. 

While Brookes and Chisnall are terrific fun it would be wrong not to mention Gerard Carey as Lord Farquaad, the villain of the piece. This is an immense comic performance, visually and verbally and he reduced large swathes of the audience to hysterics when I saw the show. This is sure to be repeated nightly as Carey loves every second on stage. Will his Lordship ruin everything and whisk away Fiona as his bride, or will Shrek save the day? 

Don't delay if you're just thinking about booking tickets. When word gets out just how good this is tickets are sure to be snapped up. Unmissable.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Meet Princess Fiona at Selfridges

Manchester you're in for a treat because the Shrek Tour have arranged another Story Time with Princess Fiona.

The Princess will be at the Trafford Centre 'Selfridges' store for about an hour between 11am and 12 noon tomorrow (Saturday 6th December) for this very special event.

Don't miss Storytime with Princess Fiona at Trafford Centre tomorrow at 11am! Meet Fiona!!!

Not only will your little ones be entertained with an enchanting story about a big green ogre but they'll also have the opportunity to have their picture taken with the beautiful princess and meet one of Manchester's most talented stars.

MEN - Shrek the Musical Review

The Shrek tour has had a fabulous first few days at the Palace Theatre and a spectacular press night on Wednesday with many stars in attendance.

One of those stars was Professor Callahan himself Mr Les Dennis. Hopefully on this occasion he managed to escape without another slap from Elle Woods.

I've already read countless glowing reviews and many, like the one below from the Manchester Evening News (MEN), single out Faye for special praise.

Shrek @ Manchester Palace Theatre

It's hard to imagine that it's been 10 years since Shrek first appeared on our screens.

Not only did it poke fun at traditional fairy tales, but it also reinvented family films by seamlessly blending adult and children's humour into one hilarious package.

And it is with great relief and a big smile on my face that I can say the same for Shrek The Musical, currently showing at the Palace Theatre.

We all know the story, a reclusive green ogre discovers true love after reluctantly agreeing to rescue Fiona, a sassy princess who has been trapped in a tower by a fire-breathing dragon.

But in the musical the story is more developed, showing how Princess Fiona, Shrek and even the evil Lord Farquaad started out in life, making the most of dance numbers and duets to develop the relationships of the characters.

The adventure transfers effortlessly to the stage, with big ensemble numbers including all the favourite fairytale characters and individual numbers giving the lead characters a turn in the spotlight.
Idriss Kargbo gives a slightly more effeminate twist to Donkey than the film version, and has his performance of 'Make a Move' down to a 'T'.

And Dean Chisnall and Faye Brookes as Shrek and Fiona have a great on stage rapport for their cheeky courtship song 'I think I got you beat'.

In fact Urmston actress Faye shines as Fiona, with breath-taking vocals and perfect comic timing she gives Dean a run for his money as the title character.

But the gong for the most laughs of the night should go to Gerard Carey, who spent the whole time on his knees as the diminutive Lord Farquaard with hilarious results. The work-out scene in particular was a favourite.

Clever puppetry and effective costumes and sets also helped recreate some of the charm of the original animation,  with the gigantic dragon with a voice to rival Tina Turner deserving a special mention.

Vocally there wasn't a weak link to be heard, from squeaky Pinocchio to the heavyweight vocals of Mamma Bear, every single performer managed to shine.

And although some of the songs seemed a little forgettable - apart from the rousing finale of I'm A Believer -  the troupe of talented singers brought the story to life.

It was a perfect mixture of music, dance and performance comedy, with a sprinkling of fresh gags and slightly risqué humour to keep adults on their toes.

Shrek the Musical is on at the Palace Theatre until January 11.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Faye is Manchester's Finest!

As previously mentioned, I'm away until Thursday evening but I thought I'd schedule a re-post of the lovely interview Faye did with Manchesters Finest to coincide with the opening night of Shrek at the Palace Theatre.

How ridiculosly cute is Faye in this interview!

I hope everyone has a fabulous first show and don't forget, if you're lucky enough to see the amazing Shrek tour this Christmas make sure you give hometown Princess Faye Brookes an EXTRA BIG cheer.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Faye's Tour Questions - Part 3

It's been another busy week on the blog but I'm going away for a few days from tomorrow morning so I probably wont be able to post again until Thursday or Friday.

However before I go I wanted to leave you with Part 3 of Faye's Tour Questions.

Here Faye talks about her amazing experiences performing at some of the UK's most iconic venues, how every tour destination offers a new challenge and that the hardest part of her job is being away from Gareth.

Tour Question #7
What would be your favourite three theatres that you've performed at and why? Do you prefer modern theatres or older historic buildings?

Faye's Answer
I could easily name two. I LOVED the Royal Exchange Theatre I performed at last Christmas in 'That Day We Sang'. (AMAZING!) I was also very lucky to have performed in the uniquely special surroundings of The Open Air Theatre in Regents Park with 'The Sound of Music'.

I do love the older historic buildings, especially when you can see pictures of some of the incredible people who have performed there before you.That makes your experience there even more special.

Tour Question #8
What are some of the best things about being on tour?

Faye's Answer
For me I think it's all the different challenges you encounter at each and every venue we perform in. So many different variable, everything from the size of the theatre to the type of audience that we find there.

Of course I also love meeting all the lovely new people in each City that we visit.

Tour Question #9
What are some of the worst things about being on tour?

Faye's Answer
Sinple answer this one. I love my job but it does take you away from you loved ones for long periods of time.

The worst thing for me is not being on tour with Gareth.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Get Ready Manchester!

The best show around is coming to the Palace Theatre this Christmas.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

From Usher to Fairytale Princess!

It's just five days until Shrek opens in Manchester and it will see Faye returning to the Palace Theatre where she used to usher during her teenage years.

Since then Faye has had lead roles in fantastic productions such as Aladdin, Grease, Legally Blonde, Sleeping Beauty, The Sound of Music and That Day We Sang. As well as TV roles in Atlantis and as Agnes Franklin in the wonderful Our Zoo.

Of course she's now dazzling audiences across the UK with sensational performances as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical UK tour.

Denise Evans of the Manchester Evening News recently caught up with Faye and director Nigel Harmen to find out what makes this show so special.

Manchester Evening News

Nigel Harman has chosen the right musical to make his directorial bow.

It’s a smart move for the actor-turned-director to take on Shrek: The Musical, a production he is familiar with after starring as Lord Farquaad in the green ogre fairytale in the West End.

The switch to directing was more seamless due to Harman’s 30 years experience as an actor, where he observed directors on set and learned different methods.

Discussing his own style, he said: “I let the actor lead and then shape the character. I was familiar with Shrek so it was a good place to start.

“I’m really excited to bring Shrek to Manchester – it is has a unique community energy and a story that translates so well on to stage.

“Because I was Lord Farquaad and I know the production so well, it wasn’t such a tough transition to move to directing. Directing is actually less demanding than being on stage every night, less daunting. It feels natural for me.”

Sitting in the audience to take in his first performance as director, Harman admits he got swept-in along with the theatre-goers around him.

“I was crying in parts and laughing at others. It really is a hilarious, heart-warming musical.”

Known for his gritty roles as rogue Dennis Rickman in EastEnders and sinister rapist valet Alex Green in Downton Abbey, Harman has always been conscious not to be pigeon-holed into roles. And eccentric, flamboyant and conceited Lord Farquaad could not be more different to violent and manipulative Green.

“I like to try different styles and I really gravitated towards this project as there was so much scope with Farquaad and I had such fun with the character. I’ve always gravitated towards projects I am interested in, whatever they may be.

“Walking down the street people recognise me as Green or they will just shout, ‘It’s Dennis’! Others will remember me from Guys And Dolls.It’s nice.”

Harman’s performance as Farquaad won him the 2012 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance In A Supporting Role In A Musical and the 41-year-old has not ruled out starring in another musical in the future. “I love singing and would like to take on a weightier musical next.”

For now, he is busy enough directing, with another project set to take shape in the New Year and if all goes well, he will return to star in the fifth season of Sky’s Mount Pleasant.

Harman relayed any fears that the touring version of the musical, based on William Steig’s book Shrek and of course the Dreamworks film franchise, may be compromised from the West End.

He said: “It is extraordinary how the touring production will be such a likeness to the West End show.
“All the money is up and stage and it will be just as spectacular. It’s a big project and that’s why I was attracted to it.”

There will be a touch of Manc in the show in the form of Flixton-born Faye Brookes, who continues her role as Princess Fiona for the tour, alongisde Dean Chisnall in the title role.

“It’s exciting for Faye to start the tour in her home town. The northern audiences are always so appreciative when a musical is brought to them,” Harman added.

Shrek is jam-packed with every major fairytale character imaginable, from Red Riding Hood to the Three Blind Mice. Brookes is delighted to be bringing a story packed with so many fairytale characters to the ‘more appreciative’ Manchester audience.

“I mean, who doesn’t love a fairytale?” she said. “The whole show is magical for everyone - we are all kids at heart. It is just so impressive you can’t help but get into it.”

Brookes completes a remarkable journey from working front of house at the Palace Theatre to the stage, which so many iconic stars have graced before her. But it won’t be her first time, with the actress last appearing here as pink and fluffy Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

The 27-year-old was drawn to Fiona because, like Elle, she is an iconic female character made famous by Hollywood heavyweights Cameron Diaz and Reece Witherspoon respectively.

“There is pressure taking on a part Reece and Cameron made their own. Fiona works so hard to live her life and be accepted for what she is. Basically, she is beautiful just the way she is, even as a green ogre. There was room for me to break Fiona down and make her my own.

“Characters like Elle and Fiona send out a strong message and that’s important.”

Brookes’ Shrek schedule will be pretty demanding but the star is determined to sample Manchester’s Christmas delights.

“Getting to the Christmas Markets is my number one priority – and lots of shopping, of course.”

“I love Manchester at Christmas and I am so excited to be coming home, spending time with my family and friends.”

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fairytale Christmas For Faye!

Rick Bowen from Messenger Newspapers recently caught up with Faye to chat about the Shrek tour ahead of it's arrival at the Palace Theatre Manchester on 2nd December.

It's there for a whole SIX WEEKS so why not treat yourself this Xmas and make a trip to the swamp to see the best show of 2014. I guarantee you'll have a Shrek-tacular time.

You'll also get to see some genuine home-grown talent in the form of Faye Brookes. Make sure you give her an EXTRA BIG cheer.

Fairytale of a Christmas for Urmston actress Faye

URMSTON actress Faye Brookes is looking forward to a fairytale Christmas playing one of the leads in Shrek - The Musical. 

Faye is to take one the role of Princess Fiona, the love interest of the lovable ogre in the show inspired by a string of hit movies starring Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz. 

She's looking forward to spending the festive season in her home city of Manchester and said Fiona is a dream to play. 

Faye said: "She's the most complex character I've ever come across but at the same time she's so much fun. You get to be a real princess and wear a pretty dress and all the make-up and sing beautiful songs. You get to burp with Shrek, giggle with Donkey. It's a character that everybody relates to - whether you're a girl or a boy." 

Fans of the films won't be disappointed she promised and said the stage version is "the cherry on top of the cake." 

She added: "You get all the fairytale creatures that you meet in the films live on stage with them singing and dancing about. You understand not just Shrek's story but everybody else's story." 

In terms of the score, Faye said it's a mixture of the exciting and the inspirational and said "it's proper Broadway." 

Faye added: "Our orchestra that travels around is doing the original score and it just sounds epic. When they rescue Princess Fiona from the tower and they have to battle the dragon it sounds like you're being transported to another realm. It's beautifully written." 

She studied at what is now Knutsford Academy and said she wanted to go there after hearing good reports of the school's drama department. She furthered her acting training at Pendleton College and completed her studies at Guildford School of Acting. 

But she's a versatile actress whose TV credits include Agnes Franklin in the new BBC period drama Our Zoo and Helena in Atlantis, also for the BBC. 

Faye said Shrek - The Musical is sure to appeal to all ages in the same way the film franchise did.

She said: "When we were in Oxford it was pensioners in the audience and they loved it. There are jokes in there for the adults that go right over the kids' heads."