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Interview: Brodie Donougher of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Raimund Theater

We talk to Brodie Donougher about appearing in The Phantom of the Opera at Raimund Theater.

By: Jun. 03, 2024
Interview: Brodie Donougher of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Raimund Theater  Image
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From being  Billy Elliot for more than two years and closing the show in London's West End to the San Francisco Ballett School and San Francisco Ballet Trainee Tour, followed by a contract with the Grand Rapids Ballett Brodie Donougher is part of the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Cast in Vienna, starring as Hannibals Guard.

It was quite a journey and more than reason enough to chat with Brodie about his career and what he has in common with the character of Billy Elliot. He played the leading part 144 times in London Victoria Palace and represented his role on multiple T.V. shows. At a young age, he shared the stage with many iconic Musical Actors and has performed in the U.K. and the United States.

Staring now at Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic show with so much historical background, a show that brought so many people closer to Musical-theatre and started an ongoing relationship with Musicals in Vienna, is something not everyone can add to his C.V. It seems like Brodie is jumping from one highlight to the other.

Brodie, who has no theatre background in his family, found his way to the stage through gymnastics. Unlike many other former Billy Elliot actors, he gained traction in the theatre business as an adult.

BWW: Welcome to Vienna. Opening Night went well; the city got his Phantom back in new clothes. After rehearsals and the Opening Night buzz, have you found some time to explore the city?

Brodie Donougher: Vienna, what is there not to like? I have been in Austria for almost four months and am getting to see the beauty and charm of this incredible city. For the first nine weeks of rehearsals, every day, I went from my apartment to the Ronacher Theatre, but because it was winter, it was cold and dark; I didn’t get to see the true allure of Wien. But when spring hit, I did.

My colleagues and I love to go to restaurants around the city, especially when there is an outdoor area to sit in the sun with our coffee.

The summer is near, and I have many plans to visit the Danube River for a refreshing plunge.

BWW: From Billy to San Francisco and through the U.S. Let us start with your time at Billy Elliot. As the last Billy, you participated in the closing ceremony, sharing the stage with many famous West End performers.
It is a dream for every performer, and you were there at the beginning of your career. Fond memories, but how long did it take to recognize what you have been part of?

B.D.:Billy Elliot The Musical was a sensational show and a true honor to be a big part of the 11-year run on the West End.

I was fortunate to work with extremely talented musical performers during my time in Billy, on and off the stage. I worked very closely with Ruthie Henshall, as she played my Ballet Teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, and it was so inspiring to act and perform alongside her. Not to mention being directed by one of the biggest directors in the Musical, TV, and Filming industry, Stephen Daldry CBE.

I recognized my involvement in Billy when I was asked to perform for special events such as the 10th Anniversary, Saturday Night at The Palladium, and The 2015 Olivier Awards where I represented Billy Elliot for ‘The Best West End Musical’. And I have to admit, meeting big celebrities such as Elton John and Julie Walters, who had involvement in Billy, also gave me a better understanding of what I was a part of.

BWW: The character Billy Elliot and you have a lot in common; my colleague Brian Hilbrand called it a real-life Billy Elliot story. When did young Brodie recognize that he has a talent for music and especially dancing? (Click here to read Brian's Interview)

B.D.: Just like Billy, I grew up in a small town in the north of England, where boys doing ballet isn't the norm.

Interview: Brodie Donougher of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Raimund Theater  Image
Young Brodie back at home in the U.K.

My first after-school activity as a kid was Taekwondo in an old hall in Blackpool. Billy’s first activity was boxing. What is so special to me is that I had no interest in dance or music until it found me. Ballet made an appearance in my journey and changed my life forever. It was because of the Ballet Classes that I had the opportunity to play, portray, and be Billy Elliot. After Billy, I was accepted into one of the UK’s most prestigious Ballet Schools, Elmhurst Ballet School, and trained until the age of 17, where I then moved to California to train with The San Francisco Ballet School. Since then, I have been working professionally as a Ballet Dancer until last year when I made the decision to move back to Musical Theatre, where my heart for my career truly lies.

BWW: Working with many prestigious choreographers and companies from the U.K. to the States, I have to pick one, Andy Blankenbuehler. Being in the room where it happens with the man who brought us In The Heights, Hamilton, and many others must feel like a dream—a huge step in your career.

B.D.: Andy Blankenbuehler is a huge role model to me. When I was told that he would be staging a show for my company, Grand Rapids Ballet, I was so driven and determined to impress him. Not only is he incredibly cool, but his creative genius is simply awe-inspiring. Working with him was an incredible opportunity, especially when I was asked to play a role that needed so much character and attention to detail. Andy is always going to be a huge part of my journey back to Musical Theatre because it was he who made me realize my true love and desire, musicals.

I played the role of Rookie in his ‘Remember Our Song’, which was a piece within a Triple Bill performance where we also performed choreography by Penny Saunders, and George Balanchine’s ‘Who Cares?’.

BWW: After working from coast to coast in the U.S., you joined The Snowman in your old playground, the West End. There is no place like home, but afterward, you hop on a plane to join the Vienna cast of The Phantom Of The Opera—again, another career milestone.

...But despite these differences, London’s West End, The U.S., and Vienna all share the same thing… their love for the theatre. (Brodie Donougher)

B.D.: I am very fortunate to be moving around the world at such a young age. I have had the privilege to have studied and worked across the UK, as well as visit and work in a couple of states in the U.S.

When I moved back to London to perform in ‘The Snowman,’ I was very excited to start a new chapter in my story. It was my first professional debut in Musical Theatre as an adult, something that I had thought would come later in life after more experience. I am truly honored that I had the chance to perform in my old city and now to perform in the incredible cast of Wien’s Das Phantom Der Oper, where I  see my career start to flourish.

Interview: Brodie Donougher of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Raimund Theater  Image
Brodie Donougher and the Cast of Vienna's The Phantom Of The Opera ©Diane Bauer

BWW: You have been working in the West End, the U.S., and Austria, the heart of Europe. Where are the differences between these countries, and where do they compare? Of course, it is theatre, but every country has its specifics.

B.D.: I would say the big differences are the audiences, where the U.K. is very international and invites audiences from across the globe, The U.S. is more targeted towards its city and state audience. I have been told all about the Austrian admiration for Musicals, and I can see that when I see full-standing ovations after every performance. But despite these differences, London’s West End, The U.S., and Vienna all share the same thing… their love for the theatre.

BWW: You are playing Hannibal's Guard, but is there any other role you want to play someday?

B.D.: Wow, There are so many! Some of my dream roles are Raoul in ‘The Phantom Of The Opera,’ Sky in ‘Mama Mia!’, Leo Bloom in ‘The Producers’ and Marius in ‘Les Miserables,’ just to name a few.

BWW: Back to Billy Elliot, being the Leading Man (boy) of such a vast show comes with a huge responsibility and requires a lot of work, both on and offstage. How did you handle life on and offstage at such a young age?

B.D.: Billy's life was Brodie's life. I never thought for a moment that the job was a chore, it was always an excitement to get on stage and perform in front of sell-out audiences of 1500 people. As much as I had to learn for the role, once I got more comfortable with it, it became second nature. Like speaking another language, the more you practice and when you are exposed to it, the easier it becomes. Sometimes you don’t even have to think about it, it just becomes a part of you.

Of course, it was a huge responsibility, and you couldn’t act like children when you walked into the theatre. As far as the show and myself were concerned, I was a professional and there to do a job. Even then, I still had the time of my life!

Interview: Brodie Donougher of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Raimund Theater  Image
Brodie (Billy Elliot) and the Cast of London's Billy Elliot

BWW: Staring in a West End show is coming with Stardom; how did you handle the overnight fame? Did your classmates ever ask you about tickets or autographs?

B.D.: When I went back to school for training, there was a lot of talk about my success in London. It was tricky to manage the flow of conversations when you wanted to talk about ’normal’ things, and it would be brought up. I have noticed that the older you become with, the more work you do, there is an understanding and recognition of more than just one main role in the past.

I am very fortunate, however,  to have some amazing supporters who have followed through my career since Billy. I have been greeted at the stage door by people who have traveled across the world to see me perform. When I was in San Francisco, someone flew in from London just to see me perform in ‘The Nutcracker.’ More recently, someone had flown from the U.K. to see me perform in the production of ‘Das Phantom Der Opera’ in Vienna and showed a tattoo of myself on her arm with the lyrics I sang in Billy Elliot's The Musical.

One of my most treasured moments as a performer is being asked to sign programs or cast sheets at the Stage Door after the show.

BWW: Phantom in Vienna is nearly sold out every night. If the show gets an extension, might you stay with it for another season?

B.D.: I am absolutely open to staying in the cast of Phantom if there is an extension. If the timing works out and I continue to enjoy my time with my colleagues and friends, I don’t see why I would rush away from this incredible show and city. Selling over 120,000 tickets before opening night is just baffling and proves the love of a Viennese audience.

I am currently also working on my German, so I will hopefully be able to speak well by the end of this contract, before the start of the next.

It is also a huge honor to work with such an incredible creative team, including Producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Executive Producer Seth Sklar-Heyn, Associate Choreographer Nina Goldman, Musical Supervisor Alfonso Casado Trigo, and Production Supervisor Sir Matthew Bourne, to whom are all incentives to continue working here. 

BWW: You had your family in Vienna for Opening Night. They have always been your most significant supporters. How important was it to know they were with you on Opening Night?

B.D.: The last time my family had been together like that was for my first performance in Billy. Not only did I have 10 people watch me in the show, but they all flew in from different parts of the world, some countries are Malta, The UK, and China. I was extremely grateful to have my biggest supporters there with me, and I hope that I continue to make them proud for the rest of my life.

BWW: Last but not least, let's talk a bit about Vienna. The city offers fine cuisine, historic buildings, and even more theatre. Have you found time to explore the city and taste traditional Austrian food?

B.D.: Again, Vienna, What is there not to love?! I have made very good friends in the cast of Phantom, and we do a lot together. We have been to various styles of restaurants and cafes across the city. I tried my first Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel, and Soda Zitron and loved all of them. Wien is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, with its historic buildings, great culture, and amazing weather, I can see myself enjoying every minute of my residency here.

BWW: Thank you for your time. Enjoy your successful run with the Phantom and the beautiful city of Vienna. All the best for your upcoming projects and your career.

Thank you so much, Martin. I look forward to my time here in Austria!

You can follow Brodie on Instagram, facebook, YouTube, and his website.

Interview: Brodie Donougher of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Raimund Theater  Image



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