Shrek the Musical is heading to Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff next week from 20 to 25 November 2023 as part of its major 2023/24 UK tour.
The Shrek-tacular production stars Antony Lawrence as Shrek, Joanne Clifton as Princess Fiona, James Gillan as Lord Farquaad, Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey, and rising star Cherece Richards as the Dragon.
The bright and beautiful fairy-tale world of Shrek has now been reimagined by a new creative team and features all the classic characters from the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks animated film, accompanied by the iconic songs and story from David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s original musical.
Ahead of the Wales Millennium Centre run, we have a syndicated Q&A with star Antony Lawrence to discuss the role of Shrek, getting in to character and the message of this heartwarming show.
Q&A with Antony Lawrence (Shrek)
Interview by Jo Caird
Were you a fan of the original Shrek movie?
I loved it. It’s a revolutionary film because it was so risqué with its comedy. It was something you hadn’t seen before: this character who’s farting and burping. We had the VHS and my sister and I would watch it all the time.
What attracted you the role of Shrek?
Shrek the Musical was the very first show I saw on Broadway. We went to New York for my sister’s 18th birthday and because we loved Shrek so much as a film we went to see the musical. I remember being so excited when it was coming over to London. I was at drama school at the time and remember thinking, gosh, I’d love to play this role. Shrek’s song ‘Who I’d Be’ is one I’ve used at so many auditions.
It’s so clichéd to say that it’s a dream role but it really is. I’m a character actor. I love complex characters that go on a big journey and Shrek is very much like that. I really relate to the story of Shrek personally – I connected so much with ‘Who I’d Be’ because it’s Shrek saying, in a dream world, who would you be? And personally, I’d jump at the chance to change myself, I think most actors would. I feel like me and Shrek are on the same path of not feeling like the best looking or most popular person in the room. It’s the lack of confidence of not feeling good enough just as you are. I almost need Shrek to be a life lesson to myself.
What is the message of Shrek the Musical?
The story of Shrek is about not needing to change who you are to fit in in the world, you just need to be yourself. It’s an age old human story – even though we’re seeing a green ogre and a donkey and all these fairytale creatures – there’s so much in there that people can connect to. Children will see the show and see the magic of these characters, then as adults you see the undertones of everything.
How was the audition?
I knew ‘Who I’d Be’ very well but I didn’t know the other songs. I never like to copy other actors’ performances because otherwise you’re just a mimic so I presented my own take on it. I really wanted to show that vulnerable side of the character, and they liked that.
Where were you when you found out you’d got the part?
My girlfriend and I were out for lunch and there was no signal where we were. I’d put the audition out of my mind then when we left the café I saw a missed call from my agent’s personal mobile number. I called him back from the car and was just speechless with him on speaker phone.
Do costumes help you get into a new character?
During the rehearsals I’ll want to be in the costume where possible, because it completely changes the physicality. It’s not just Antony, because you’re suddenly most bigger. Every time I’ve had the costume on I figure out new ways to be in it, thinking about Shrek would stand, which is completely different to me. You need the framework of the costume during the rehearsal period. As much as I can have on as early as possible will be a huge help.
What effect do all the prosthetics play on maintaining that all-important emotional connection with the audience?
It is going to be a real challenge. I previously did the Lion King where I had a full face of makeup and I had to spend a lot of time in the mirror to work out how moving my face affected the appearance of that makeup. It’ll be very much the same with this – when I’ve had all the prosthetics on I’ve looked at myself and considered how I’ll make myself look friendly or happy or scared or worried. So much of it is going to probably come through the voice.
You recently played Scar in the international tour of The Lion King – do you prefer playing goodies or baddies?
I really like playing villains because they get all the best lines, but it’ll make a lovely change to play the hero for once, and such a lovable guy who just wants to express his real self to someone and be loved.
Shrek has a bromance as well as a romance. Do you enjoy your double act with Donkey?
Completely. Brandon and I have got a good vibe going and he makes me laugh a lot. There’s a song we do together, a travelling song, and just the thought of him making all these little interjections, it’s going to be so hard not to laugh, knowing how funny he’s going to be.
You’re touring to some wonderful venues all over the country with the show, many of which you’ve played at on other tours, some of which will be new. How does it feel to be returning to Cardiff?
Wales Millennium Centre is a beautiful venue. When I was there with Mary Poppins in 2016 I was buying my first flat and I remember spending so much time pacing around on the phone in the loading dock talking to solicitors and estate agents.
Shrek the Musical runs at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff from 20 to 25 November 2023. To book, visit: www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2023/shrek