Stuart Barkley was ready to take a break from performing, but he just couldn’t resist one last chance to join his favourite company onstage.
When he found out Align Entertainment was bringing Shrek the Musical to Michael J. Fox Theatre again – it’s onstage Jan. 31 to Feb. 15 – he couldn’t turn down the chance to take part. Barkley is onstage as Lord Farquaad, the vertically challenged ruler of Duloc who seeks to marry Princess Fiona.
“It is so much fun,” the Burnaby resident says with a laugh. “The fun thing in this show is they delve a lot more into the character than they do in the movie. You get to see a little more why he’s cranky, you get to see a little more why he’s maybe not as tall as everyone else.”
In case you wondered how the six-foot-tall Barkley can play a character whose short stature is integral to the story, well, that’s easy: he kneels. All he needs to do is don some knee pads and a flowy cape to cover his legs, and Barkley is appropriately short for the role.
“Farquaad’s a little bit extra, so I think it works,” he says.
As in the DreamWorks movie, the musical tells the story of a reclusive ogre who finds himself on a life-changing journey with a wise-cracking donkey as his sidekick, as they embark on the rescue of a princess with a secret.
Rehearsals for the production started back in October, but Barkley notes his own work didn’t really ramp up until earlier this month since the bulk of the story centres around Donkey (Daniel Curalli), Fiona (Maddie Livland) and Shrek (Charlie Deagnon).
Barkley has been enjoying watching it all come together, noting the cast brings together talents of all ages – from kids on up – and from a wide range of backgrounds. Having the energy and enthusiasm of the young cast members balanced against the experience of the stage veterans makes for a perfect vibe for the performers, he says.
“I appreciate that it’s very much like, you go there, you can have a good time, the product is always good, no matter what the show is,” says the 27-year-old performer. “It’s always about having fun, taking care of everyone who’s there, mutual respect and being collaborative.”
It’s Barkley’s fourth Align Entertainment show – he previously appeared in Legally Blonde and starred in both the company’s productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – and he says the company remains his favourite. His resume includes roles with other major musical theatre companies, including Arts Club Theatre and Theatre Under the Stars, but Align holds a special place in his heart.
“In the theatre industry, I see them as the good guys,” he says. “They want to do things right; they have the right attitude. … They always say it’s a family, and you want to support your family and you want them to be successful.”
Barkley promises that, as always, this Align Entertainment outing will offer up something for the whole family, with humour that will appeal to kids and also to adults.
For those who know the story primarily from the movie, he promises the same ending and the same characters, but with more insight and character development – plus, of course, more music and big dance numbers.
“It’s going to be a different view of Shrek, so the audience can fall in love with the characters even more,” he says.
Performances include both evening and matinee options, with a special family matinee on Feb. 1 and “Frugal Friday” evening performances on Feb. 7 and 14. Shows are already selling out, so buying tickets early is advisable. Tickets are available through www.vtixonline.com/align-entertainment.
The Michael J. Fox Theatre is at 7373 MacPherson Ave. For all the show details, see www.alignentertainment.com.