Up Close: Loveable Ogre…

When I caught up with Lukas Poost, he was preparing for another night of dancing and singing on the stage while portraying the world’s most lovable ogre, Shrek. The Wyalusing native is making his way back to the area when Shrek The Musical comes to The Scranton Cultural Center this weekend. He’s been on the road since September, traveling across the country, sitting through hours and hours of makeup sessions and pouring out gallons of sweat in the big, green suit. He’s coming home to perform in front of his friends, family and Shrek enthusiasts alike. Meet the man behind the ogre, Lukas Poost …

How did you land the role of Shrek?

I graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in May, 2011. The school performed a senior showcase in New York in front of agents and directors, and one of the casting directors from NETworks, who’s producing this tour, saw me. They called me in, I did a couple rounds of auditions and here I am.

What do you enjoy most about playing Shrek?

Outside of actually doing the show, which is a blast, the fact that I’m touring is incredible. Until now I’ve never been past Chicago. I did the whole west coast. I’ve seen the ocean and I’ve seen the desert. It’s been a real incredible experience and I feel blessed to be here. The show itself is amazing. It’s a character I always enjoyed. When I originally heard they were making Shrek into a musical and I heard the music, I always knew I wanted the role.

What other performances have you been a part of?

Professionally this is my first one. I did some more dramatic roles in college like The Crucible by Arthur Miller and the Seagull by Chekov, but professionally this is my first job.

What did you learn from your time with the Community Theatre in Wyalusing?

I learned a lot. Julie Newbury (the artistic director of the Winding River Players) taught me initially everything. I then went to school for musical theatre, so I learned a whole lot more, but she is the one who brought me into this world and fostered my love of theatre. She gave me many roles, gave me experience needed for getting into this career.

Growing up, did you feel the desire to act?

I was pretty shy. I’m still very shy. There is something about the stage that is different. Going on stage, there is no room for you to hide. Through characters you are disguising yourself as someone else, making it easier to think “well that’s not me doing that terrible thing,” it’s whoever you are playing at the moment.

Let talk about the physicality of the role.

Shrek is a very physically demanding role. I show up two hours before and I get pile of prosthetic green paint plastered onto my face. Then it takes 15 minutes to put on a 45 pound fat suit. The hardest part is the heat that gets trapped inside the suit. The stage lights and now in the winter, all the theaters have the heat on instead of the air conditioning. That is taking some getting used to. The first day that I had the suit on for four or five hours, they had to pull me out of it because I overheated, which has happened to everyone who has had the role.

How long does it take to remove everything?

It takes about 20 minutes to take off. By the time I get through a show, my face is already falling off or I’m struggling to keep it on. I can tear all the silicone prosthetics off in a matter of minutes. Cleaning up the glue and paint around my eyes takes a while.

Are there a number of special effects used in the performance?

All of the costumes themselves are special effects. We have the original costumes from the Broadway run. They are the Tony Award-winning costumes. We have 25-foot-dragon foot puppet. The Gingerbread Man is talking. Fiona turns into an ogre and flies in the air. There is magic there.

You are performing in front of a lot of children with Shrek. How does that differ from other audiences?

Sometimes children can be more vocal in good ways and in bad ways. There is usually a kid in the crowd always yelling “Hi Shrek! Hi Shrek!”.

What is your favorite part of the show?

My favorite moment is the last song of the first act “Who I’d Be.” It sums up the whole show for me. It shows my character’s change. Shrek starts as an ogre. He’s happy that way, being the way he needs to be, stinky and grumpy. But he turns 180 degrees and realizes that he needs people around and he is much happier that way. He realizes he could be whatever he wants. Shrek reluctantly opens up to donkey and himself and lets those feelings out. And that’s just a really cool moment both for the audience and me as an actor.

Is there pressure to live up to the Mike Myers’ Shrek performance or do you try to make it your own?

I don’t actually. There are certain things you have to do with the character. We have the Scottish accent and he’s green. I’ve chosen a number of things to remind people of the character as we go through the show. You can’t entirely recreate what Mike Myers has already done. You have to find it within yourself. You can’t let it weigh you down. I already have a fat suit weighing me down.

I loved your resume list of special skills that you can grow a bushy beard and whistle. Anything else you didn’t list?

I guess I can add act with a Scottish accent to that list now.

Do you have a message from the road to your NEPA audience?

They should expect to see the characters that they know and love and then some. The show stays true to the first film. It has music and more time to spend with the characters. People should come in ready to have a great time. I think that’s the most important thing. And hopefully they will feel good after the show.

-tom graham

Shrek The Musical opens Fridaym Jan. 20 at

8 p.m. at the Scranton Cultural Center at the

Masonic Temple. There will be several shows throughout the weekend. Visit www.scrantonculturalcenter.org or call 1-800-745-3000 for tickets.

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