CORONATION Street star and Dancing On Ice finalist Faye Brookes is joining Kevin Clifton in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York, from Monday to Saturday.
The Manchester actress, 35, will be taking the lead female part of Fran opposite Strictly Come Dancing alumnus Clifton’s Scott Hastings in Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood’s production on tour until July 15.
“I’m so excited to be playing the role of Fran and making it my own. Bring it on!” says Faye, who last appeared on the York stage in the pink and perky role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical in August 2011.
“But I have been back to York since then because it’s so pretty, a great day out, wonderful cafés and restaurants, and the river.”
Faye, who became a household name after joining ITV soap opera Coronation Street to play Underworld packer and waitress Kate Connor from 2015-2019, is no stranger to musical theatre.
Not only starring in Legally Blonde, but also in Shrek The Musical in the role of Princess Fiona, in a tour that visited Leeds Grand Theatre in August 2014, and in Chicago, playing housewife, nightclub dancer and murderess Roxie Hart, visiting the Leeds theatre last May.
Now she adds Strictly Ballroom’s Fran to that list. “I was doing panto at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, playing Goldilocks – with Jason Donovan as the villain [the Evil Ringmaster] – when my agent called me to say Maisie Smith was scheduled to leave the tour in March.
“How would I feel about auditioning? ‘Great!’ I said. I knew Strictly Ballroom well from seeing the film in my childhood. I fell in love with the script and when I watched the film again, I was completely in awe of the dancing and bonkers, crazy comedy that Baz Luhrmann had done.”
Based on Luhrmann’s 1992 Australian romantic comedy, Strictly Ballroom The Musical follows the rocky path of arrogant, rebellious ballroom dancer Scott Hastings (Clifton).
When he falls out with the Australian Federation over his radical dance moves, he finds himself dancing with Fran (Brookes), a beginner with no moves at all. Inspired by one another, this unlikely pairing gathers the courage to defy both convention and families while discovering that, to be winners, the steps do not need to be strictly ballroom.
All important to the show is the chemistry in Scott and Fran’s tentative, then blossoming relationship on and off the dance floor. “I’ve got myself into the fittest shape possible and Kevin has taken me under his wing. He’s an absolute pro,” says Faye. “He’s been wanting to do this show ever since he was ten.”
Faye began rehearsals on March 8 before joining the itinerary from March 27. “I worked with Kevin while he was on the road as I followed the tour around the country,” says Faye, who relished the task of mastering her Australian accent too.
“To be fair, I do love taking on any challenge and doing accents is definitely one. I’ve always loved voices, and from watching Home And Away and Australian movies, my ear has picked up on the accent.
“What else I did, when I was doing drama at Guildford [School of Acting], was we had elocution lessons with a new accent every week.”
2021 brought her another challenge in the form of the ITV celebrity contest Dancing On Ice. “I’d never had any lessons before, but it just shows what you can do if you’re so committed to it,” says Faye, who finished as the runner-up.
“I was very lucky that I had no other commitments than the ice and I took to it like a duck to water, soaking it up like a sponge. With Strictly Ballroom, there is territory that I’ve done before [musicals], but I’ve never done ballroom dancing until now, though I have had to do ‘historical’ dancing before.”
Working with Australian-born director Craig Revel Horwood has been a thrill too. “He’s really taken the film and sought to re-create what Baz Luhrmann created in his first ever movie and put it on stage,” says Faye. “So there are moments that will remind people of that film, and for young people who aren’t familiar with it, I can say it’s action packed and you just have to jump on the train and ride!”
Combining a book by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce with a cast of more than 20, Strictly Ballroom The Musical brings to stage life such hits as Love Is In the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time with joyous verve, bolstered by songs by Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect in a show full of “scintillating singing, dazzling dancing and eye-popping costumes” under the glitterball.
“It’s a very explosive show where you go on this wonderful experience,” says Faye. “Take a leap of faith, go with your gut, and what a beautiful feeling you will have when you come out of the theatre.”
Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, April 24 to 29, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.