Shrek prepares to make believers out of his fans as the musical hits Hampshire

Laura Main as Princess Fiona with Steffan Harri as Shrek in Shrek: The Musical. Picture by Helen Maybanks
Laura Main as Princess Fiona with Steffan Harri as Shrek in Shrek: The Musical. Picture by Helen Maybanks

On its release in 2001, the film Shrek was an instant classic – it won the first ever Animated Feature Film Oscar, spawning three sequels and numerous spin-offs.

The story of the ogre who ultimately has a heart of gold, and features fairy tale favourites from Puss in Boots to the Gingerbread Man, as well as introducing the scheming Lord Farquaad, struck a chord with audiences everywhere. And in 2008 it was adapted into a stage musical, which since slaying Broadway on its debut has been a global hit.

Steffan Harri is playing our green hero on it’s current UK tour.

‘I’m absolutely over the moon to be playing Shrek. He has so many layers to his character and there are so many comedy moments too. I do enjoy his one liners and his dad jokes. I Think I Got You Beat (or which we call The Fart Song) is a lot of fun to perform every night and Jeanine Tesori’s score is incredible, I’ll never tire of singing such great songs. One of my favourite parts of the show is jumping on to stage at the beginning and seeing the faces of the children who are so excited.’

What makes it such a fun family show?

‘It’s the perfect family musical and it’s not just for the young, there’s plenty for adults too. It’s so colourful, the costumes and set are just incredible; we’ve even got a 14-foot dragon that looks just like the film. The audience reaction every night is brilliant and at the heart of it is a fantastic message about being true to yourself. In one performance, there’s a part where Shrek calls himself ugly and one night a little girl in the audience replied: “You’re not ugly, Shrek”, she definitely got the message! The musical also expands on the film, looking more in depth at the characters and their backstory which is really interesting. You can expect the most fantastic night for the whole family.’

But fun as the role is, it takes its toll on Steffan.

‘It’s very demanding and it does take over your life completely. I usually wake up in the morning and start drinking water straight away. During the show itself I drink eight litres of water, hydrating before and during every performance. I have to make sure I’m physically able to do the show too –  they say the costume is 48lb, though sometimes it feels heavier. I keep very fit and I have regular physio too. As I spend a lot of time getting into make-up, even skin protection is important – I have Dermalogica products coming out of my ears! A lot of effort goes into a performance and doing eight shows a week but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s an easy sacrifice to make.’

And with Shrek so familiar to millions, has he found it hard to put his own stamp on the character?

‘I actually watched the film the night I got the job and I haven’t watched it since because I wanted to put my own take on it. The musical expands on the backstory of Shrek’s family and Shrek’s younger days, so it really is my own take on the character which is important. You do have to respect the film and I think that’s what we’ve done with the costume and make-up; when the audience come to see the show they expect to see Shrek and the characters that they recognise. It’s definitely my own take but the film is a very good guide.’

SHREK THE MUSICAL

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

November 27-December 8

mayflower.org.uk