In just over three weeks’ time, Shrek The Musical will have its Australian professional premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, followed by seasons at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from February 2020 and at the Lyric Theatre, Brisbane from May.

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film Shrek and a 1990 book by William Steig, Shrek The Musical is a multi-million-dollar musical comedy. Its New York production received eight Tony Award nominations, 12 Drama Desk nominations, 10 Outer Critics Circle nominations, three Drama League nominations and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Show Album.

Playing the role of Donkey is Nat Jobe, whose credits include Disney’s Aladdin, in which he understudied and performed the roles of Jafar and The Sultan, and Disney’s The Lion King, understudying and performing the role of Banzai. He has many credits to his name, having even shared the stage with Hollywood legend, the late Debbie Reynolds.

Jobe tells Theatre People he’s thoroughly enjoying his preparation for Shrek The Musical.

“I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in rehearsal,” he says. “It’s just silly and wild and awesome.”

This isn’t the first time Jobe has played Donkey. In February 2018, he performed in the role at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres in a staging of Shrek The Musical by Neil Gooding’s Packemin Productions. Jobe speaks highly of that experience and says it’s been helpful in a number of ways.

“I feel like I have a real connection with the role already,” he explains. “But then, what’s so amazing is working with a new team of people and especially with international creatives, who know this show and these characters inside out. They’re able to provide us with so many gifts in finding even more in the text.”

Jobe says the more time he spends working on Shrek The Musical, the more he’s blown away by “the magic of it”.

“I think it’s the most beautiful, perfect piece of theatre,” he says. “It’s funny and it’s silly and it’s great for the family, but the messages behind it are so important, and I love Donkey because I think he really carries a lot of the heart of the show.”

Shrek The Musical features 19 songs. Music is by Jeanine Tesori (a Tony Award-winner) and book and lyrics are by David Lindsay-Abaire (a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama).

“[The music] is one of the reasons I think this show is so magical,” Jobe says. “They have been so clever with the writing of it … You’ve got real classic music theatre numbers and then you’ve got these rock numbers, [and] you’ve got a bit of R&B. It really covers a broad spectrum of music.”

Jobe is particularly excited about ‘Don’t let me go’, performed when Donkey first appears on the scene.

“It’s such a great introduction to that character – this needy, desperate but also hilarious donkey, attaching himself to Shrek,” he says. “What’s really cool in this production … [is that] they’ve taken that song and it’s not just a Donkey solo anymore … It morphs into this duet with Shrek … [So, from] that first encounter, we immediately establish what their relationship is going to be, and I think it’s a really clever piece of writing.”

Jobe says that Donkey is, without a doubt, the most challenging role of his career.

“I think that this role is a huge challenge for an actor, partly because he is such a big character – he has so much energy, so that in itself is exhausting to achieve eight shows a week – but, beyond that, he’s a character that everyone knows. When people think of Shrek, they immediately think of Donkey. He is so loved.”

The role of Donkey was made famous in the Shrek films by US actor and comedian Eddie Murphy.

“Eddie Murphy’s performance is absolutely iconic and is genius,” Jobe says. “As an actor approaching this role, there’s the difficulty of wanting to serve the character – and, really, Eddie Murphy’s work – but you don’t want it to be an impersonation. You want to find your own version of that, that is still serving his work but is also your own creative experience. And that’s a huge challenge, and it’s rare that you have those sorts of roles where you’re having to find that balance but, I have to admit, I love that … I think that’s a wonderful challenge and I’m confident we’re going to get there.”

Jobe is excited about the approach being taken in the rehearsal room by director Jenny Sawyer, who brings her experience working on international productions of Shrek The Musical.

“What is amazing about this show – and I’ve never encountered this before – is that they allow for so much creativity and play,” he explains. “Jenny said to us on day one, ‘Don’t be afraid to throw any ideas at us … That one idea that you have could be the pearl that goes into the show’ … There’s been a lot of … creativity and play, which is a huge blessing in the commercial theatre world. It’s very lucky to be able to have that in this show.”

When it comes to the visual aspects of the Shrek The Musical, Jobe is similarly enthusiastic.

“The design of the show is genius because it actually brings the animation completely to life,” he says. “There are a lot of animated films that have been turned into stage productions and they have to find clever ways of making that animated look work on a human. What I find astounding about this, particularly with [the character] Shrek, is that they haven’t gone [for] a different version of the animated character. They have taken the animated character and somehow sculpted that character onto a human’s body. So, when Ben [Mingay] steps out on stage, he is 100% the Shrek that you’ve seen in the film … I think that’s mind-blowing.

“Visually, I think this show is an absolute treat, and children and adults who love the movie are going to come and be blown away by how true it is to the film.”

And while it’s described as “part romance, part twisted fairy tale and all irreverent fun for everyone”, Shrek The Musical carries a timely message about rejecting prejudice and embracing diversity.

“Truly, why I think people should see this show is that, behind all of the silliness and the jokes, there is such an important message of acceptance here,” Jobe says, “and I think that that message is more important in the world now than ever.”

SYDNEY SEASON DETAILS

Venue: Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star
Season: From 1 January 2020
Performance times: Wed – Sat 7:30pm, matinees Wed & Thurs 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm
Prices: From $49.90 (transaction fees apply)
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 795 267

MELBOURNE SEASON DETAILS

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: From 16 February 2020
Performance times: Wed – Sat 7:30pm, matinees Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm
Prices: From $49.90 (transaction fees apply)
Bookings: ticketek.com.au or 132 849
Groups 12+ call 1300 364 001

BRISBANE SEASON DETAILS

Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Season: From 9 May 2020
Performance times: Wed – Sat 7:30pm, matinees Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm
Prices: From $49.90 (transaction fees apply)
Bookings: qpac.com.au or 136 246
Groups 12+ call (07) 3840 7466

 

 

Comments

comments