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.
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.”