In the newly-opened The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ellie Young is currently playing Meg Giry in the West End production after originally booking her role on the UK Tour before the pandemic closed theatres. Having made her professional debut playing White Cat on the International Tour of CATS, Ellie had previously attended The Royal Ballet School, where she was cast by Dame Monica Mason in a production of Les Sylphides. Speaking with Ellie, she tells us about playing Meg Giry in The Phantom of the Opera, making her professional debut in CATS and attending The Royal Ballet School.
You are currently playing Meg Giry in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera, how is it performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre and being part of the cast?
The Phantom company really are exceptional. There is such a diverse array of talent, not only in the cast and orchestra, but in every creative department. I love how much I am able to learn from everyone just by observing. I find that the older, more experienced members of the cast take on the role of looking out for and nurturing the younger generation, which is invaluable to us.
How did it feel originally booking the role on the UK Tour?
I was completely in shock. I was in the middle of the CATS tour in Manila at the time. I was filming self tapes in between shows and sending them across the globe. I remember getting home after the show and my agent, Gemma rang me and told me. I couldn’t believe it. It was an amazing feeling. A role I’d had in mind that I wanted to play since I graduated.
Can you tell us what the character is like to play and was there anything that drew you to the role?
I love Meg’s personality. She always seems to be somewhere she’s not meant to be or speaking out of place. I like that she is so brazen. She does a whole range of things in the show, from singing and dancing, to climbing up and down ladders! Never a dull moment!
What was it like returning to theatre after the pandemic closed shows?
It was an unusual mixture of feeling like you’d been gone forever, and having never left at all. I think we were all counting our lucky stars that we had such an amazing job out of the pandemic. We almost didn’t believe we’d get to perform it.
It was so special seeing our Broadway counterparts open in New York also.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from playing Meg so far?
Being part of the recreation of Phantom in collaboration with some of the original creative team made the experience unforgettable. It was so important that we did everything we could as artists to do this monumental show justice after so many before us and especially now that the show would be reopening after the pandemic.
What are you looking forward to most for continuing your run in the West End?
I love how exposing the West End can be to other opportunities. You never know who’s in the audience, or what show is opening around the corner to go and watch for some inspiration and education! It really is saturated with talent and meeting and learning from the people I do in this hub is so beneficial to me.
What was your time like making your professional debut as White Cat in CATS?
It was a completely new world for me after coming from a strictly balletic background. Believe it or not, they are very different. I was incredibly nervous, but again, getting to work with the people I did made the experience unforgettable. I was the youngest person in the cast so I tried to keep my head down to see how my colleagues worked in that environment. (I still am, and do now!)
How was the experience touring internationally with the musical?
China especially is completely different to England in so many ways. It was mainly about getting used to the temperature, and fast so we could figure out how to dance for two hours a night in it. I made some good friends in the cast and band and we all had a great time embracing it together. It was incredible to get to see parts of Asia you would never think of going to or never get the opportunity to go again. Some culturally educating experiences and extremely beautiful sights.
Was there anything that encouraged you to attend The Royal Ballet School and can you say about your time there?
I think it would have been a silly opportunity for me to pass up at the time. There were twelve places and I got one. I was so excited and, honestly, I didn’t really think about it too much. I was eleven and being shipped off to boarding school – every kid’s dream…
Although my experience wasn’t always easy, I look back and am so thankful for the things I learned aside from my dancing ability. It set me up for life.
It was tough, and I really struggled at times. But I also had huge highs and had plenty of amazing opportunities.
What are some of your favourite memories from performing in the shows whilst training which saw you be cast by Dame Monica Mason in Les Sylphides?
I cannot describe how much of a treat it was to work with Dame Monica Mason. I had known and looked up to her since I joined The Royal Ballet School when I was eleven and she was the artistic director of the Royal Ballet. I got to work with her and the older students of the school as a principal in the production. She really took the time to nurture me. Looking back, I see how she appreciated me as an artist and made sure I got the chance to show others this too. I feel very fortunate to have been picked for such an opportunity and often think back and remember how grateful I am to her for that. She took me under her wing and made me feel very special.
Where does your love of ballet come from and how did you start?
Much of my love of ballet comes from the appreciation of the musical scores that accompany them. It simply wouldn’t be the same without it. I also enjoy dancing in shows that involve a lot of storytelling within the movement. Ballets like Romeo & Juliet and Manon (a favourite of mine).
Had you always wanted to be a performer and what do you enjoy most about your career?
I never really thought about doing anything else. Of course I have other interests and am finding more and more as I get older.
As I child, that’s what’s I was good at, that’s what I enjoyed (and still do). I went to a great dance school in Liverpool (Chiltern School of Dance and Drama) that nurtured me from a very young age. They are an important part of my career. I still go to them for advice and support.
Getting into a prestigious ballet school when I was so young has steered me towards where I am today. I haven’t had to make too many decisions in that sense, which I feel very lucky about.
How do you like to spend your time away from performing?
I believe in creating a life for yourself outside of the performing industry. It means so much to me and many performers who give their whole lives to the business. You have to be so emotionally committed to your art but that can make the disappointments even harder to deal with. Having other interests gives me an escape and can remind me of my own worth. I have always been interested in the world of business and marketing and when I met CEO, Mike Crofts on a course I was doing during the pandemic, he thought I would be a good fit for his startup company, Amodigo. I now work there as a business development executive alongside my job in the West End.
Do you have any favourite shows to watch?
I recently watched the revival of Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre. I was completely blown away by the production and the talent. I absolutely love that there is so much to look at with the dancing and costumes and so many great personalities that enhance the plot. I didn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I saw it.
A very different musical but one I also recently saw was Come From Away. A beautiful story told in such a clever and evocative way.
As I said earlier, a perk of living and working in London is the opportunity to get to see these productions and experience other’s work.
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