Rising Star: Grace Hodgett Young

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Fresh out of college and already living the dream, this performer has gone straight from Sunset to Hadestown

The lowdown Still only 21, Grace Hodgett Young’s career path has followed a trajectory most young performers can only dream of. She landed her first professional role in Jamie Lloyd’s radical reinvention of Sunset Boulevard, which premiered at the Savoy Theatre in September last year. Not only that, she was cast as Betty Schaefer, a significant supporting role. ‘Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better first job!’ she says. Before the run had even ended, Hodgett Young was announced as the lead role of Eurydice in the West End premiere of Hadestown, which opens on 10 February. And now there’s the news that Sunset is transferring to Broadway later in 2024. Not bad for someone who didn’t officially graduate until November last year!

Wannabe star Hodgett Young always sang, using karaoke videos of Rihanna and Beyoncé for practice. When her older sister started at Spotlight Theatre in Nottingham, Hodgett Young wanted to go too. She was nine years old. ‘I knew pretty early on this was what I needed to do.’

In Year 12 she enrolled at Bilborough College for a BTEC in Performing Arts. Teachers told her not to audition for Mountview because she wouldn’t get in but, thanks to the support of her family, she tried anyway: ‘I knew I needed to be in London.’ She set up a GoFundMe page and considered a gap year to earn enough money to afford the fees, but in the end she won a full scholarship. ‘I never had a back-up plan,’ she says, ‘because if you have a Plan B you’ll never be driven enough for Plan A.’

Discovering her voice
Hodgett Young hadn’t had a single singing lesson until she got to Mountview. She had no dance technique either. But, she says, ‘They’re so good at latching on to what you’re good at and teaching you how to make that better, but also strengthening your weaknesses.’ From day one, she was ‘a sponge’, soaking up information on how to use her voice properly. When the performer-director Julie Atherton came to direct her, it was a life-changing moment. ‘She was the person I used to watch online when I was falling in love with Musical Theatre,’ Hodgett Young recalls.

Until Made in Dagenham in her third year, she’d classed herself as an alto. Atherton had other ideas. ‘She asked me to sing with a high belt. I thought, “If Julie’s asking, I’ll try!” Until then, I’d no idea I could sing like that.’

Sunset Boulevard The audition process was ‘wild’, recalls Hodgett Young. She guessed she was being seen for the cover of Betty; when Lloyd told her he was considering her for the actual role, she did ‘a happy dance’ in the street afterwards. She had just one evening to learn all the material. ‘I didn’t know the show or the character, I didn’t know my voice could sound the way it ended up sounding,’ she says. ‘But that worked in my favour. I just sang it how I thought I should sing it.’

Company vibes The whole cast was ‘amazing’, she says. She developed a strong bond with Tom Francis, who played Joe, and was inspired by Nicole Scherzinger and Rachel Tucker. ‘Just because you’re the lead, it doesn’t mean it all revolves around you,’ she says. ‘You’re a team – and they embraced that.’ She was, she adds, blown away by their ‘consistent talent’.

Road to Hadestown For this new version, each performer is retaining their own accent. This has proved difficult at times – ‘Mine are northern vowels so they have to be navigated’ – but overall, says Hodgett Young, ‘it has made it easier to connect to the story’. Everything she learned on Sunset is standing her in good stead, particularly when it comes to imposter syndrome: ‘If something went wrong on Sunset, I’d spend the rest of the show thinking “I’ve ruined it”. I have to remember that if I’m feeling under, vocally, what I can do is tell the story clearly and rely on my acting.’

Broadway beckons As for Sunset’s transfer, ‘It hasn’t sunk in yet.’ And let’s face it, she has the small matter of co-leading another show first. But for this 21-year-old graduate, whose first time on a plane will be en route to making her Broadway debut, this is a pinch-me moment. ‘It’s going to be exciting!’ she says.

Hadestown plays at the Lyric Theatre, London, from 10 February – visit uk.hadestown.com

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of Musicals magazine. Never miss an issue – subscribe today