Stepping up with Shrek

Etcetera Productions presents its take on ‘Shrek: The Musical’

Published on October 18, 2013
Thomas Jordan of Wandering Brush puts the finishing touches on Megan Barnes’ makeup.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

“Stand up and be yourself,” Etcetera Productions wants to tell you with its latest show. “Don’t be affected by others.” “Wave your own freak flag,” as a song in the musical goes.

The show has all the themes of a traditional fairytale — good versus evil, love and friendship — but it’s also got an anti-bullying message. There’s a donkey, a dragon, singing and dancing pigs, gnomes and a talking gingerbread, along with an ogre or two.

It can only be “Shrek.”

Etcetera Productions is presenting the musical version of the first instalment in the beloved Dreamworks movie series (which was based on the 1990 book by William Steig).

The production will transform Holy Heart Theatre into the Kingdom of Duloc and surrounding swamp, where a sarcastic Shrek lives, alone, in peace. Through the production, he finds his solitude interrupted by an array of fairytale creatures who have been banned from the Kingdom by Lord Farquaad. He decides to travel to Duloc to talk to the lord, in an effort to get his privacy back.

Along the way, Shrek picks up a new best friend, Donkey, and finds himself rescuing the beautiful Princess Fiona, who has challenges and a secret of her own.

Shrek is an outsider struggling to find his place, while Princess Fiona hides her true self in an effort to be accepted.

“As a teacher, all the themes just seemed to be right,” said musical director Carl Goulding. “Here is Shrek, who looks like an ogre, and people are judging him by what he looks like as opposed to what he is. When they find out what he is, that changes the whole dynamic of everything.”

Goulding says the musical is even more beautiful than the movie.

While it stays true to the movie’s plot, dance numbers have been added, created specifically for the stage production, and it includes a 17-piece orchestra, with a combination of brass, strings, woodwinds and percussion, as well as a rock band.

Songs like The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” and other high-energy numbers from the movie are included.

An open audition for roles in “Shrek: The Musical” was held last spring, and hundreds of hopeful performers showed up. In the end, it came down to uniqueness and ability to transform into a fairytale creature, Goulding explained.

“You’re looking for real individuality. You’re looking for people to step forward and say, ‘Hey, look at me.’ They have to be able to step out of who they are and be that fairytale person and go from there.

“As people stepped up to the plate, there were a number of them who just morphed into these characters, like gnomes and villagers of Duloc and the three pigs or the Big Bad Wolf.”

Among them was Justin Goulding, Goulding’s son and artistic director of the musical, though Goulding said he had to audition like everyone else. Justin plays Shrek.

Does he speak in a Scottish accent, like the character in the movies? Goulding won’t say for sure.

“He speaks Shrek,” he said, laughing. “I’ll tell you that much.”

Goulding also won’t say how Fiona’s transformation from princess to ogre will take place onstage — but makeup artist Patricia Andrews said she goes from royal to green in about three minutes.

With a cast of 60, many of them playing fictional creatures, makeup artistry for the production is a challenge, Andrews said, but one she is enjoying. She’s been creating the characters with the help of Thomas Jordan of Wandering Brush.

“This particular show is probably the most challenging I’ve ever done,” Andrews said.

“If it was a Broadway production, we could have prosthetics made, but that’s costly for a small show, so we’re trying to figure out how to put 3D on someone’s face.”

Certain characters require more work than others, and she and Jordan have divided them up: he has created makeup and a costume for Dragon and Shrek, while Andrews is doing Pinocchio, the Big Bad Wolf, Fiona and others.

The whole production has taken Etcetera Productions months to complete.

“Every inch has been detailed in miniscule,” Goulding said. “I went down and watched a run-through a couple of weeks ago … and it was so convincing, it was amazing.”

The Broadway version of “Shrek: The Musical” opened in December 2008 and lasted two years before an American tour was started.

Goulding hopes audiences appreciate the message of acceptance the production provides, and have a good time while they’re doing it.

“I truly hope that the children and the adults that come and see this take away the message that this show is bringing to them. This is

a theme that has gone on since the beginning of time and the young people today are under such pressure to comply and everything else.

I hope they love it.”

With performers like Adena Cahill as Princess Fiona, Jeremy Wells as Donkey, Megan Barnes as Dragon, Nick Mandville as Lord Farquaad, Rebecca Goulding as Gingy and Lennie Earle as Pinocchio, “Shrek: The Musical” runs at Holy Heart Theatre Oct. 23-26. Tickets are $35 and are available at the Holy Heart box office, by calling 579-4424 or online at

Twitter: @tara_bradbury