TRURO – It may have been a little claustrophobic at times, but Alex Purdy knew it was all a part of becoming the main character for Shrek the Musical.
Purdy, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Cobequid Educational Centre, is set to take to the stage for opening night tonight as Shrek. But before that could happen, was the arduous process of being made to look like the lovable ogre Shrek.
“Breathing was a little bit hard after a while, after all the layers started to harden,” Purdy said about having to sit for about a half-hour while Phantom F/x of Kentville created a mold of Purdy’s face for the musical earlier in the week.
“It was a little claustrophobic, but I knew it had to be done.”
Early Friday morning, Purdy again patiently waited to be made into Shrek. Aaron Peerless, a special effects makeup artist with Phantom F/x, spent about an hour and a half to fit the specialized mold onto Purdy’s face. It traditionally takes three hours to fit but Friday’s work was for rehearsal purposes only.
“It’s four layers,” said Peerless of the silicone-rubber and gelatin prosthetic, adding it’s taken about 200 hours to build, sculpt and mold the Shrek face for Purdy.
“It feels a lot more intense and more real and more professional now,” said Purdy as the layers were added and trimmed on his face shortly before a full-day rehearsal Friday. “It helps me get into the role more.”
Peerless said Purdy was excellent to work with.
“Alex is fantastic. He’s one of the most easy-going actors I’ve worked with.”
Peerless also said members of Phantom F/x will remain in Truro for all the Shrek performances. They will be nearby in case any alterations or issues arise with the molding.
“Absolutely anything can happen at any point in theatre,” he laughed.
Purdy is prepared for the unexpected as well. Having auditioned for the musical in the fall, Purdy said he originally hoped to be cast in the role of ‘Donkey.’
“I was a little scared at first about playing Shrek, but the more I read the part, the more I eased into it. I think it will be fun. I can relate to Shrek. There are some underlying messages of acceptance, trying to find yourself and being alone. I think it’s a good message to kids,” he said.
Along with having a head mold made, Purdy’s hands will also undergo a transformation when he dons ogre hands made by the same company.
“It’s quite the costume and a very unique experience for me. I’m glad I got to experience it.”
Musical theatre has been a hobby of Purdy’s for many years.
“But the more I actually did it, the more I realized that this is my calling. I like delving into the different characters and I’m lucky to have the chance to,” he said.
“I like the challenge of getting into the characters. I try to think about how I think the characters would say the words. For me, the most fun part is forming the character. And then actually performing onstage is quite the thrill.”
While he’s set to graduate this year, Purdy said he’d love to have a career performing, however, he knows it is a tough industry to get into.
“I would enjoy a career in acting. That’s one of my options for sure,” he said.
When he turns 18, Purdy plans on auditioning in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada.
“But it’s an audition with about 600 people and only 12 get chosen. I’m nervous but thought I’d give it a try. I’ve got nothing to lose. If I don’t get accepted, there is always the next year or other schools,” he said.
Having performed with many of the same students in previous years, Purdy said this year is quite similar.
“The cast is still pretty tight, no one is divided,” he said, adding that is needed to put on a successful show. “Everyone is pretty excited to put on the show and the co-operation is still there.”
The musical opens Saturday at 7 p.m.
IF YOU GO:
WHO: Cobequid Educational Centre students
WHAT: Shrek the Musical
WHEN: Opening April 5, ending April 12
TIMES: April 5, 8, 9, 11, and 12 at 7 p.m.; April 6 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: AV Room at Cobequid Educational Centre on Lorne Street
TICKETS: $12 for students/seniors, $14 for adults; available at MacQuarries Pharmasave and online at www.ticketpro.