Farquaad: ‘Shrek the Musical’ not just for kids

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imageFor openly gay actor David F.M. Vaughn, his first Broadway gig wasn’t a fleeting moment. It was a leading role in the big budget “Shrek the Musical.” Fly your “Freak Flag” with the touring version of the show hitting Atlanta on Tuesday.

Of course, the musical is based on the 2001 film that launched the animated film franchise as well as the 1990 book, incorporating all the major characters and more. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Shrek is a green ogre with a heart of gold living in the swamp with his family. Just after leaving home to make his own life, he is persuaded by the villainous Lord Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona, who is trapped in a castle. Along the way, the outsider Shrek is joined by an excessively chatty donkey.

Vaughn plays Lord Farquaad (photos), who kicks out all the fairy tale beings from the kingdom but agrees to give Shrek his swamp back in return for Fiona’s rescue.

“The audience loves to hate him,” Vaughn says. “He’s not the classic fairy tale villain. He is spoiled, and he is ridiculous. It’s a lot of fun to play him.”

imageFor the actor, “Shrek” is a play of firsts – the first time he was in a Broadway show (replacing Tony nominated Christopher Sieber); his first major role; and his first time performing on the Tony Awards, where the production was nominated for Best Musical in 2010.

The musical ran for just over a year on Broadway and was directed by Jason Moore, who also helmed “Avenue Q.” Before the current “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, ““Shrek the Musical” was one of the highest budgeted musicals to come to Broadway.

Vaughn says the show is faithful to the source materials but with its own elements.

“Instead of just copying it, the producers went to the book and developed it, including a backstory,” he says. “It opens with Shrek as a seven year old. The show is about two and half hours, and has lots of new stuff.”

He also says that despite a mixed audience, “Shrek” is by no means just for kids.

“It has a broad appeal,” he says. “Across the board, we have a lot of families and we have senior citizens and everyone in between. It is bright and colorful, but it’s not a child’s musical – it has some adult humor and some political humor as well.”

Vaughn also notes that there is a lot in the show for gay audiences to relate to.

“First and foremost, it’s a musical. It has divas singing these crazy numbers,” he says. “I also think people can relate to Shrek. In the number ‘Freak Flag,’ Shrek and the rest of the fairy tale creatures rise up and decide that their treatment is not fair. You can easily switch the fairy tale creatures for gay. People call that the gay number in the show.”

Vaughn, also a composer/musician, says travelling has become second nature. This is his fifth national tour, and he calls criss-crossing the country fun but hard. He has gotten used to the “gypsy” life – odd hours, working Saturday and Sunday but having Monday off. When the current tour ends in Los Angeles in a few months, he’ll have a chance to settle down, take some time off and decide what’s next.

“Shrek the Musical” opens at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, April 26 and runs through May 1. Visit the Fox online for tickets and more information.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film gay and lesbian film festival.


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