American actor Kyle Timson counts himself lucky for his quick break into the crowded musical theatre scene.
The fresh-faced 22-year-old scored the title role in the international tour of Shrek The Musical barely a year after graduating from the University of Michigan in the United States.The musical is based on the popular animated film Shrek (2001), which follows the comedic adventures of its titular character, a green ogre. The musical runs here from Wednesday to June 19 at Marina Bay Sands.
While Timson is a young actor, he is no green horn. He has been involved in theatre since kindergarten and participated in school and community theatre productions growing up. He was also previously in musical productions such as The Wedding Singer and Fiddler On The Roof, which were staged in the US.
This musical will see him in his biggest role yet and also mark his first international tour. While some might baulk at playing an ogre who is a misunderstood, anti-hero figure, he finds himself a good fit for the role because of his booming tenor voice, sense of humour and large stature – the bachelor is 1.88m tall. He also identifies with Shrek on a more personal level.
He says: “Shrek represents anyone who looks or acts different from what is considered the norm and I definitely can empathise, growing up as the bigger guy who is also a theatre kid.”Like Shrek, Timson experienced his fair share of bullying in middle and high school. It was only in university while he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fine arts that he came into his own.
“I met tons of other people who were like me and that was when I realised that it was okay to be the way that I am,” he says.
1 How different is the musical from the film?
Well, they are pretty similar in terms of the plot, but the bonus in the musical is that the characters’ back stories are expanded. The audience will learn how Shrek, Princess Fiona and Lord Farquaad got to where they are.Then there is the extra pizzazz from the songs and dance and through that, the emotions of the characters are also intensified, something you don’t get in the films.
We get to emote their feelings through song and say what is really going on inside the characters’ heads.
2 What did you learn about Shrek in the process of playing him?
At first, I thought I was just playing a big, loud and grumpy ogre, but eventually, I found the humanity in him and that he represents the bullied human. This is why I love the film. Shrek is different from all the other Disney princes and heroes.
3 How much work does it take to physically transform into Shrek?
A whole lot. I spend an hour and a half in a chair to get made up to look like him. The make-up artist attaches a big helmet at the back of my head and four prosthetic pieces to my face. She then paints my whole face “ogre green” and adds the freckles, eyebrows to fine-tune the look. After that, I put on a fat suit that places padding almost all over my body before stepping into four-inch boots to get the extra height and ogre-like physicality.
4 How much does all this weigh?
Approximately 35 pounds (16kg) in total. The make-up is around 10 pounds while the costume is 25 pounds. It’s a lot of added weight, heat and stress on the muscles but nothing some Gatorade can’t fix.
5 Does this mean you do not have to work out and maintain a trim body since you are trapped in a fat suit?
Well, I perspire so much during the show that I need to physically conserve myself beforehand. I have to carb-load before each show to get that quick energy hit, so as hard as it sounds to have to eat fries and pasta and bread, it’s actually kind of nice. I eat what I want and let myself run free. But I drink only water during performance weeks to keep hydrated.
6 You play Shrek, but is he your favourite character in the show?
I would have to say Shrek since I play him. But if I could choose another character, it would have to be Donkey. I mean, who doesn’t love him? He is just so funny and wears his heart on his sleeve, which is such an admirable quality.
7 What is one musical you would love to be a part of?
Les Miserables. That would just be the dream for me. I really love it and it is one show that I could do for the rest of my life.
8 How would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered kindly.