BWW Interviews: Eric Petersen, Shrek in Shrek The Musical at Atlanta¬'s Fox Theatre, April 26 ¬Ė May 1.
You may think you know that big, green, grumpy-but-loveable ogre, Shrek, from the hit movies, but when Shrek The Musical takes the stage at The Fabulous Fox Theatre, audiences will be introduced to Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and all their fairytale friends in a new and exciting way - on stage and in song. Behind the green makeup and ogre-worthy costumes will be Eric Petersen, who shared with us a little about his journey to this production, what it's like transforming into an ogre and how the important message of loving yourself can be heard loud and clear in this exciting telling of that well-loved story.
BWW: Eric, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I am excited to hear about the show and I know our readers will be too. We are really looking forward to Shrek in Atlanta!
Eric Petersen: Great!
Let's start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career. Specifically, how did you get into the theatre business??
Well, I am originally from Chicago, I grew up in the west suburbs and I loved living there. I went to a small school, Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois where I majored in Theatre. I did well at Bradley and when I graduated, I went to work at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan which was a cool, but hard experience. I moved to New York right after that and started doing very small children's theatre tours, readings, and off-off-off-off broadway shows. I also got involved with a lot of workshops, working with young writers, choreographers and directors at the beginnings of their careers and as we got older everybody wanted to help each other out, so a lot of connections were made in the early days. I did that for a few years and my first big break was when I was cast as William Barfee in the first national tour of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which actually kicked off at the ALLIANCE THEATRE there in Atlanta. After that I did some small TV things, and then was back working in Michigan with my wife who I had met that summer, doing a production of The Full Monty. My agent called and asked if I could get to New York the next day for an audition for an immediate replacement in Shrek the Musical - the Papa Ogre/Shrek Understudy. So I talked to the director, who happened to be my wife, and she gave me a pass. I flew to NY, auditioned and was very lucky to get it, which was a major milestone in my career and a major goal of mine. So I said, sorry honey, you will have to find a new Dave, and was with the Broadway production for 6 months or so, and I actually got to go on for Shrek a few times, which was pretty cool. Then, when the national tour came about , I was cast as Shrek full time and that brings us to today!
Before you got involved with the musical version, were you a fan of the movies?
Yeah, I actually auditioned for the original workshop four or five years ago so I knew that the project was happening and at the time I had seen the first and third movies and loved them. Then I saw the show on Broadway when it opened and thought it was really good and I especially thought that the role of Shrek was great. It's funny, twice in my career my wife has turned to me at a show and told me I was going to play a part one day. She did it with Spelling Bee, and that happened, and when we saw Shrek on Broadway she said "You are going to be Shrek one day." But I always loved the movies and once I got cast I went back and watched all of them closely and re-read the book by William Steig. What is so sucessful about the movies and about the musical is it is really fun for all ages. The kids obviously love the characters and the story and seeing a talking donkey and the princess and Shrek burping and farting, but what made the movies so successful and with our show as well is the adult humor that flies over the kids head that make it an enjoyable experience for parents too.