Monday, 9 March 2015

Faye's Musical Memories

I just came across this lovely interview Faye and Dean (Shrek) did with the Sunday Post before Shrek Tour's stay at Her Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen back in January.

Faye talks about her first west end role in Grease the Musical, being the youngest ever Elle Woods and how meeting Gareth was written in the stars.

She also reveals it's not always glamorous being an actress and that she has been soaked live on stage in more ways than one over the years.

We also get to hear exactly how Faye manages to transform from Princess to Ogre in less than a minute.

Faye has already proved she is an incredibly gifted all-round actress performing in 4 hit musicals (Grease, Legally Blonde, The Sound of Music and Shrek), 2 pantomimes (Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty), Victoria Woods heartwarming period play (That Day We Sang) and in 2 very different TV shows (Atlantis and Our Zoo). 

She is a supremely talented and versatile actress and although she loves musicals doesn't want to be pigeonholed in a very cut throat business.

Check out the full interview below:

Dean Chisnall, who plays Shrek, and Faye Brookes, who stars as Princess Fiona, are veterans of some of the nation’s favourite shows. Here, the duo reveal the stories behind their best moments in musicals.

Faye: I opened in the West End as Frenchy in Grease straight out of drama school. I’d left home in Manchester at 18 to go to Guildford School of Acting. I was movie-mad as my two older sisters had brought me up watching old films.

Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was so iconic that to land that as my first job was amazing.

I didn’t do the opening night as I’d sprained my ankle but when I did get on it was very special. I ended having to go on as Sandy at the last minute. I called my mum telling her I was going to be the leading lady that night and she jumped on a train with my dad, sisters and brother.

Dean: The first audition I had was when I was still at drama school. I found myself singing in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was absolutely petrifying. He was very nice but you’re aware of all the amazing musicals he’s written and you’re standing in front of him as this young student. It was a heck of a welcome to musicals but a brilliant one too as I got a part in The Woman In White and left drama school early to be in it.

Faye: I moved on to play the lead Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Sheridan Smith had played it in the West End and to be flying the flag in the first UK tour was pretty cool. I was just 23, the youngest ever female to play the role.

I’ll always have that as a highlight.

Faye: Musicals are always a madhouse backstage with quick changes and people going about their personal lives – one actor even proposed to his girlfriend in Italy. We all come together as this little family and even if we have a big argument and hate each other, we’ll love each other the next day and get on with our jobs. 

There’s always some prop or wardrobe malfunction but the funniest was in Legally Blonde. As Elle, I was clutching her little dog close to my chest. He was very nervous and got stage fright – and peed all down my front. I was soaking, but the show must go on. So many things can trip you up and you have to learn to roll with it.

Dean: I’ve been fortunate to work continuously for the last 10 years, moving on to Evita and later doing La Cage Aux Folles alongside John Barrowman. I also did the Take That musical, Never Forget, which was brilliant but a bit bizarre at the same time. I played Gary Barlow in the tour and then in the West End. Take That are such a massive part of many people’s lives that we used to get mobbed. You’d get to the stage door and people were screaming: “Gary, can I have a picture?” as if I really was Gary. It was downright weird.

Faye: I did The Sound Of Music at the open air theatre in Regent’s Park, London, for a month last summer. When it rained you just had to carry on. Everybody would get soaked but there were only a few performances that were rained off as it’s upsetting for the audience when it’s cancelled and they have to come back. It was exciting to see if the rain was going to pass and we could just carry on.

Faye: My boyfriend is Gareth Gates. Finding love was the last thing I expected when I signed up for Legally Blonde. I was with it for two years. They couldn’t change the leading role but they changed the rest of the cast every three months to keep it fresh. Gareth came in just at the end as Warner and although I didn’t plan for anything to happen, I think it was kind of written in the stars. I said when it finished I was going straight to do panto in Canterbury – and so was he! Finding my true love on a musical is a dream come true. He knows the industry and understands what it’s like. I’m very, very lucky.

Dean: I’m the only one who has done the entire UK version of Shrek. I was in the London production playing a pig for a year. Then I took over as Shrek and have been playing it ever since on tour. I’ve played the part about 700 times. So even when I’m on stage a lot now I know all about the backstage chaos going on. The attention to detail is what sets it apart. There are so many costumes, they’re flying about in organised madness.

Faye: The fastest change I’ve ever had to do is in Shrek when Fiona turns into an ogre. I have to run off stage when Shrek stops the wedding and I have just 90 seconds to turn green.

There are four people on me – I have two ladies painting my face green while another of the wardrobe ladies is getting me into my fat suit which has the same wedding dress Princess Fiona had before. Meanwhile another woman is putting fat hands on me. 

I’ve had green paint all over my dress at times but you have to be regimented and I know when to step right or left or lift my hands to get the prosthetics on.

Faye: I did Our Zoo on TV recently and did a Victoria Wood play last Christmas so I don’t want to be pigeonholed – but I absolutely love musicals and it’s really special being on stage. I’m very lucky to be working in this industry as it’s very hard and cut-throat.

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