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."

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Ahh, Love Happy Faye!

A little blurred I know but I couldn't not feature this funny and ridiculously cute picture.

Maybe Princess Fiona's six cups of coffee each morning is proving a little too much for tea loving Faye :-)

This girl makes my bloodie life!! Haha love you so much Faye Brookes

Faye's good friend and fellow Shrekie Nikki Bentley was feeling a little under the weather yesterday so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish her a speedy recovery.

A quick look at the above picture she tweeted of 'Happy Faye' should help lift her spirits. Even Farquaad's Dad 'Grumpy' couldn't help but smile if he saw that face.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Sound of Music Slideshow!

As you know Faye recently starred in the fantastic BBC drama Our Zoo and one of the stars of that show was the lovely Honor Kneafsey who played the young June Mottershead.

What I didn't realise until this weekend was these two very gifted actresses had worked together before.

They were both Von Trapp children in the magical production of 'The Sound of Music' that took place at Regents Park Open Air Theatre during the summer of 2013. Faye, as I'm sure you remember, played Liesl and Honor played Gretl.

Needless to say BOTH were superb.

That's not all, amazingly Honor isn't the only Kneafsey to work alongside Faye. Her Sister Ilana has been receiving rave reviews playing the role of 'Young Fiona' during the Shrek Tours stay at the New Theatre Oxford.

Clearly talent runs in the family.

Now seems a good time to briefly flash back to Faye's summer in the park and enjoy these wonderful pictures from 'The Sound of Music'.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Faye's Tour Questions - Part 2

Amazingly there have been eight blog posts since I featured Part 1 of Faye's Tour Questions just a week ago, so I think it's high time we moved on to Part 2.

Here we discover it's not Red Bull (Elle Woods) or coffee (Princess Fiona) that helps Faye deliver such incredible energetic performances.

She also tells us why it's always nice to be back up north and how she's learnt to cope with life on tour.

Tour Question #4
Is it very tiring being on tour, particularly all the travelling? How do you keep your energy up? Red Bull or 6 cups of coffee?

Faye's Answer
It is extremely exhausting being on tour. If you can tour I think you can do ANYTHING. 

I learnt very quickly how to cope on the Legally Blonde tour but if all else fails. . . . . . .

These are my little life savers.

Tour Question #5
This being your second touring show you must have seen a lot of towns and cities across the UK. What are your favourite destinations and why?

Faye's Answer
I think it's amazing how much of the UK I have actually seen now having done the Legally Blonde tour and we're so lucky with the Shrek tour because it's doing all the major theatre venues.

BUT, I cannot wait to go back to Manchester. I'll be at the Palace theatre and I used to usher there when I was at college.

I love being at any northern venue because it gives me the chance to be nearer to my family.

Tour Question #6
Other than the show are there any differences between the Shrek tour and the one you did with Legally Blonde?

Faye's Answer
I learnt an awful lot and VERY quickly on the Legally Blonde tour.

How to tour. How to pack for the tour. What to expect and be prepared for at every new venue.

It's a very personal thing.

You have to do the things that are best for you and make you happy because you just won't enjoy the experience if you don't.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Naturally Beautiful!

As you can see, Faye looks absolutely stunning in the picture she tweeted earlier today showing off her new hair cut.

It really is no surprise that she is so often cast in the role of a Princess.

She looks equally breathtaking with short hair (Agnes Franklin), as a blonde (Elle Woods) or a red head (Princess Fiona) but never more so than when she's just Faye Brookes. Such a natural beauty.

Of course what really makes Faye special is that she's just as beautiful on the inside too!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You're More Than Welcome Faye!

All Princesses deserve flowers from time to time and I'm so pleased Faye liked the bouquet I sent her.

She sent me a lovely email which absolutely made my day and as you can see, I even got a thank you on Twitter.

She is such a special person. I'm one very happy fan tonight :)

Going Home For Christmas!

"Take my hand on bended knee. Bended knee. BENDED KNEE."
Faye is brilliant in the above scene but seriously Shrek, you need to be asked 3 times!

In less than two weeks time Faye will be back home in Manchester as the Shrek tour starts a six week run at the Palace Theatre on 2nd December.

I'm so pleased Faye will be able to spend Christmas and New Year with her family.

I can only imagine how difficult and tiring it is being on tour so it will be nice for her to have some home comforts over the festive season and enjoy this special time of year with her loved ones.

Glenn Meads from WhatsOnStage recently caught up with Faye to talk about Shrek, Princess Fiona, Legally Blonde, Elle Woods and performing at the Palace theatre in Manchester over Christmas.

Here is the interview in full:

Faye Brookes is coming home for Christmas, starring as Princess Fiona in the hit musical Shrek in Manchester.  

Following starring roles in Legally Blonde the musical and Victoria Wood's That Day We Sang, Manchester born Faye Brookes is about to return home to play feisty Princess Fiona in the hit movie musical, Shrek - directed by one-time Lord Farquaad, Nigel Harman. Here, she tells us about the character, the show and what playing Elle Woods meant to her. 

There have been four Shrek movies and now this stage musical. Why do you think it's so popular as a concept?
Everyone has seen these characters grow from the very first film, they've now fallen in love, they've had little Shrek babies and as an audience we've grown with them too. It's a feel good family film for all to enjoy and now that it has been transformed into a great fairytale musical live on stage. What's not to love?!!

What do you like about Fiona, as a character?
How feisty she is! Yes, she's a little complex but that's what makes her interesting. She shows all her colours. You get what you're given with Fiona. She may be a princess but she's one tough cookie. She can handle pretty much anything that life throws at her.

What's your favourite song in the show?
" I know it's today", as there is something about Fiona's first song that reminds me why we love her so much as a character. We watch her grow from this little girl into the woman she is today and still she continues to have the faith in here happily ever after, whatever that may be. She's endearing and very courageous.

Nigel Harman is directing you. As he has been in the show, is there something intuitive about the way he directs, having been there?
He really knows the show so it's great when he makes you think back to each character's background. Why they are who they are? How they've got to where they are now? And that really helps us to keep the show fresh we can then remind ourselves of 'The Story' that we're telling. 

You have had a great career so far and things seem to have gone into fourth gear since Legally Blonde. What are your memories of that show?
Ermmm how exhausting it was! HaHa!! I know how Shrek feels, let's put it that way! I have very fond memories of the show and I met the most amazing people whilst I was tour. I learned a lot about myself and the industry that we work in. If I was asked me to be Elle Woods again I wouldn't even blink!

Can you still eat gingerbread men, after co-starring with one?
Haha! Well our gingerbread man is a woman and she is my very best friend in the show! AND ginger is really good for your voice!

You're coming home for Christmas with this show. How does that feel?
So lucky to be surrounded by my family this year whilst I'm working. We were at the Opera house with Legally Blonde and I was fortunate enough to perform at The Royal Exchange last Christmas. So to be at the Palace Theatre for December 2014 is a real treat. 

Where are your favourite Manchester Festive hang outs?
The Christmas markets are my favourite place to be around this time of year. The Alchemist is my favourite cocktail bar but Manchester is great for just about everything; shopping and eating good food, and going to see live shows. I'll be at home whilst I'm performing in Shrek so I can't wait!

Shrek is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 2 December until 11 January.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Lovely 'Our Zoo' Memento For Faye!

As you all know Faye recently starred in the hit BBC period drama Our Zoo and this afternoon she received a wonderful gift from the daughter of the founder of Chester Zoo, June Mottershead.

A signed copy of the official book of which she is the author, with a lovely message thanking Faye for her fantastic performance as Frankie in the TV show.

It's such a kind and thoughtful gesture from June and it's clearly made Faye's day.

Below is a snippet from one of many 5 star reviews on Amazon where you can pick up a copy for a bargain price of just £9.

"This book has a magical feel to it not only do we hear a first person account of the different troubles that the family and the zoo faced, we find out all about the animals that were on the journey along side them. We get to know June, her family and friends (human and animal). It did not feel like I was reading a book but sitting snuggled up listening to a grandparent telling me stories from their childhood. A wonderful feeling that I can honestly say a book has never ever gave me before."


Don't forget you can also relive every magical moment from Series One of Our Zoo with the official BBC DVD for a measly £13.99.

Both would make fantastic stocking fillers. Just think, you could have somebody's Christmas gift sorted for less than £24.


This reviewer on Amazon described it as the best drama of the year.

"Superb drama. Terrific casting and performances by all. Production values of the highest quality - costume, make-up, production design, editing, cameras and lighting...and very nice and natural direction. A real treat - it is a shame it had to come to an end. Congratulations to all involved and thank you for getting some quality back on our tvs. A charming story beautifully told."

I'd go one step further and say it's one of the greatest TV drama's of all time.

I'm praying this amazing show gets the second series it deserves. Quite frankly it would be an absolute travesty if it doesn't.

Monday, 17 November 2014

My Oxford Shrek Day!

Love the above picture. Faye looks positively radiant. 

Oxford is only a 200 mile round trip from my home near Bristol so I didn't have to leave too early for my planned meeting with Faye at 4:45pm yesterday.

Still, I didn't want to be late so I set off at 1:00pm and was parked up not far from the theatre with an hour to spare.

We'd arranged to meet prior to the show - which started at 5:30pm - because she is commuting to Oxford from her London apartment and would have to rush off after to catch the last train.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, it wasn't possible for her to come to the stage door in the end. There was a lot going on with the show because Leo Roberts was standing in as Shrek and she was needed at work. The production team are working the cast extremely hard and with barely an hour between shows there simply wasn't time.

Anyone who goes to see this wonderful show probably doesn't realise just how much hard work goes into the fantastic spectacle you see on stage. The entire cast really are doing an incredible job because however tired they may feel their performance levels never dip. They always are and were again, sensational. None more so than Faye.

Despite a hard week Faye absolutely sparkled throughout. A truly awe-inspiring performance from start to finish. She really is an exceptional actress and a true professional who never fails to deliver.

The word special is often overused but it certainly applies to Faye.

After the performance I often listen to audience members discussing the show in the foyer. Yesterday almost all were talking about the the excellent cast and Faye's name - well Princess Fiona - was mentioned on countless occasions as being particularly impressive.

Every time I'm lucky enough to see her perform I become more and more astounded by her talent.

Her acting as I've mentioned a thousand times is so sensational, so brilliantly expressive that there are no words to do it justice and she really does have the most beautiful, breathtaking voice I've ever heard. She was simply born to be on stage.

The role of Princess Fiona is made for someone with her all round talent and it's an absolute fact that no one could play it better than Faye Brookes.

The show yesterday was every bit as fantastic as I remember from my previous 6 visits to the swamp. It's one of those rare shows you never tire of seeing. The funny sections actually get funnier the more you see them and you always come away with a huge smile on your face. It's a feel good show for all the family.

I'm already looking forward to my next Shrek adventure in Manchester Sunday 14th December. Hopefully I'll have chance to catch up with Faye and give her a Christmas present to thank her for another memorable year of on stage magic.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

More Great Pics From Oxford Castle!

Here are some more wonderful pictures from the Shrek tour photocall at Oxford Castle.

Faye's expressions in the above shots are simply priceless. I can't stop smiling, particularly at the one on the right. Just amazing, LOVE IT :)

Although Faye takes a remarkably beautiful mugshot I hope she gets out on bail to perform at todays show because I'm heading to Oxford this afternoon hoping to meet my favourite Princess and watch this Shrek-tacular show for the seventh time.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Faye's Tour Questions - Part 1

Although I've usually planned what I'd like to say when I've arranged to meet up with Faye at a show, it often goes completely out of my head as soon as she appears from the stage door.

To be honest I seem to have a hard job remembering my own name when she's around.

I was therefore delighted when Faye said that she would be more than happy to answer any questions I might have if I sent her an email. Needless to say I came up with far to many so I've split them into sections, 'Tour', 'Shrek', 'TV' and 'Everything Else'.

First up are the 'Tour Questions'. Faye was kind enough to answer quite a few and gave some wonderful detailed answers, so I've decided to post two or three at a time.

Tour Question #1
What is the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner routine for Princess Fiona and do you have to change your diet when you're on tour?

Faye's Answer
I am very strict with what I eat when I'm in a show. I eat like an athlete when I'm working, making sure I eat slowly releasing energy foods and letting my body digest everything I give it before I do a show.

Breakfast can sometimes be a juice but if there is no time to make it, EGGS.

Lunch is always simple but filling because then I'll want to eat something light for dinner. I love fish and lots of wholesome soups.

I also like putting together really healthy salads that have protein and pulses to help keep my body working.

Tour Question #2
Do all the cast stay in the same hotel, various hotels or bed and breakfast guest houses and do you get to choose where you stay?

Faye's Answer
We all have to find our own accommodation when we're on tour. It's up to you where you stay.

I like to be on my own, self serviced apartments give me the chance to cook my own food and live a bit like I would at home. 

I think it's also healthy for me to separate myself from the show when I'm not at work. That way I can return feeling focused, well rested and refreshed.

Tour Question #3
Do all the cast have to make their own way to each destination on the tour? If so, what transport do you usually use and do the company pay for your travel costs?

Faye's Answer
We all get given an allowance for travel and you can spend it how you like. 

Some people choose to drive to the tour venues, some of the cast are really good friends and often share cars. Most of us, myself included, usually gets trains.

We all live in different parts of the country so we all have to organise ourselves getting from A to B.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

'The Oxford Times' Cover Girl!

If you're lucky enough to live anywhere near Oxford make sure you pick up todays edition of 'The Oxford Times'.

You'll have to be quick though because they're expecting record sales with the beautiful Faye Brookes on the cover.

I'm almost tempted to make the 200 mile round trip from Bristol to buy one myself.

Oxford residents really are getting all the luck at the moment. Not only is Faye Brookes on the front cover of their paper and the best touring musical playing at the New Theatre, they also get to enjoy the Shrek advert on TV.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Shrek Tour Lands in Oxford!!

Oh Hi Oxford...

Best of luck to Faye and all the wonderful cast of the Shrek Tour for their first performance at the New Theatre Oxford tonight.

Earlier today Faye (Princess Fiona), Dean Chisnall (Shrek), Donkey (Idriss Kargbo) and Lord Farquaad (Gerard Carey) visited Oxford Castle for a photocall.

We took some of the cast of to for a photocall.

The cast of had great fun with our mugshots on their visit today! Catch them from tonight!

I'll be making my 7th trip to the swamp on Sunday. If you live anywhere near Oxford make sure you don't miss your chance to see this fantastic show while it's in town. It's an absolute must see for all the family.


Faye has been kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for the blog regarding life on tour. I'll be featuring these in the next few days so make sure you check back soon.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Faye is "Uniquely Brilliant"

After a fantastic three weeks playing to packed houses at the Bord Gais theatre and countless standing ovations, the Shrek tours run in Dublin comes to an end today.

Thankfully we only have to wait a few days before the swamp lands in Oxford & that's especially good news for me because it means I'll be back in Duloc this time next week :)

Check out the latest edition of 'Swamp Life' by watching the video below where we catch up with director Nigel Harman. He talks about the superb Shrek tour cast and describes Faye as 'Unique' and 'Rather Brilliant'.

I would have to agree, as a performer Faye is in a league of her own and really is uniquely brilliant.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Manchester Christmas Lights

Manchester's spectacular Christmas lights switch-on show will once again light up Albert Square this November.

With one of the most family friendly line-ups in the history of Manchester’s Christmas celebrations, this year’s light switch-on show, in partnership with Key103, will have something for everyone – packed with stars, amazing performances and a suitably grand finale.

Manchester’s switch-on party will officially open six weeks of festive celebrations and attractions that have made sure Manchester is well known as the Christmas capital of the UK.

Comedy favourite and true Mancunian Jason Manford is leading the star line up and will be joined by rising stars Collabro – the singing quintet who won this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition.

Hollywood superstar Warwick Davis will also appear ahead of his fantastical appearance in the Opera House’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starting on 5 December.

Stars of the sensational hit production of Shrek the Musical will appear on stage before the swamp-dwelling ogre treads the boards at the Palace Theatre from 2 December. 

Local X Factor star and singer Shayne Ward will perform, alongside stars of the future, The Piccadillys. The brand new girl group were the winners of a talent competition by Key 103 to find the next chart toppers – and Shayne was part of the judging panel.

CBBC favourites Hacker and Dodge will appear on stage with presenter Katie Thistleton. Notoriously unpredictable, these all round cheeky-canine-chappies are ones not to be missed and never fail to bring a raucously memorable show!

The super-talented winners of The Printworks Street Dancer competition 2014, Superkidz from Stretford, will wow the crowds with their incredible choreography.

 The Switch-On wouldn’t be complete without a dramatic finale – a 10-minute firework extravaganza!

And best of all, it's free!