Stepping into the movie ogre's giant green boots

From tiny tap shoes to heavy-weight boots - Steffan Harri has grown into a great leading man of musical theatre.

Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 12:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th May 2018, 12:41 pm
Stefan Harri in Shrek The Musical, coming to the Opera House
Stefan Harri in Shrek The Musical, coming to the Opera House

The actor will play the loveable green ogre Shrek, when Shrek The Musical comes to Blackpool next week.

“It’s fantastic, a real once in a lifetime opportunity of a role,” he said. “And I’m excited to come to Blackpool.”

But he’s no stranger to the show, having toured with the first year of the previous tour, in the ensemble and as understudy for the diminutive Lord Farquaad.

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Stefan Harri in Shrek The Musical, coming to the Opera House

But this time out he’s filling some much bigger boots, coming to the tour this time round from a stint in the West End production of Les Miserables, as well as working with the National Theatre Of Wales. Bit of a change in pace then.

“When I was given the opportunity to come back, two-plus years later, I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

While it’s common for understudies to be invited back to play a role full time on later tours, Steffan’s change in character is a less frequently seen progression.

“My agent rang and asked if I wanted to go in for Lord Farquaad,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky and went on as him over 60 times, and I was happy to put the role to one side.

“But I’d really enjoyed Shrek’s songs in the show and thought it would be nice to audition for that instead.

“What should have been a five-minute audition, turned into 20 - the first 10 minutes was just chatting to the production and creative team as it was the same people as the previous tour.

“A few audition rounds later, I was cast; and I’m really enjoying the role.”

Part of what makes the show, based on the DreamWorks’ animated film, so special is the ‘real life’ recreation of Shrek for the theatre audience - a transformation which takes up to 90 minutes every day, with a full prosthetic face mask and 37-pound fat-suit costume.

“Until you actually do it, with the 37-pound costume and an hour and a quarter sat in make up, that’s when it really kicks in what a big job it is,” the Welsh actor said.

While Steffan’s the man out front and centre, he still enjoys taking time during a performance to appreciate his co-stars on stage.

“My favourite moments, probably when I finish,” he laughs. “I enjoy the opening number when I jump out of a big storybook and see the audience’s faces light up.

I also love listening to Sam doing The Ballad Farquaad in the second half while I’m being poked and prodded, and the ensemble doing Freak Flag; that song is the message of the show, not just to kids but for the adults to remember it too.”

Shrek The Musical, Opera House, Blackpool, May 15 to 28. Call 01253 625252.