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When Kyle Gillis saw Lori Linkletter’s Facebook post looking for someone to play Shrek in The Guild Music Theatre School’s upcoming production, he wanted to audition.
The Nova Scotia actor had been an ensemble member in Neptune Theatre’s production of Shrek: The Musical in Halifax a few years earlier and longed to play the lead.
“Shrek is a dream role of mine,” says Gillis, who relates to the super-sized character.
“My last name is Gillis, so I’m Scottish through and through and, like Shrek, I’m goofy, shy and misunderstood. I’m also gassy,” he laughs.
But, at the same time, he wondered whether the post was meant for students. So, he reached out to Linkletter. The two had a serious conversation and Gillis was hired.
“I was completely gobsmacked. I didn’t think it was going to happen,” says Gillis who is thrilled to play the lead in Shrek: The Musical at The Guild in Charlottetown which runs from Feb. 27 to March 1. It’s being presented by The Guild.
Set in a mythical land, Shrek: The Musical is the story of a massive green ogre who, after being mocked and feared his entire life by anything that crosses his path, runs away to an ugly green swamp to exist in happy solitude. Suddenly, a gang of homeless fairy-tale characters (Pinocchio, Cinderella, Donkey and the Three Pigs) raid his sanctuary, saying they’ve been evicted by the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad. So, Shrek strikes a deal to get their homes back if they give him his home back. However, when Shrek and Farquaad meet, the lord strikes a deal of his own: he’ll give the fairy-tale characters their homes back if Shrek rescues Princess Fiona.
So the ogre agrees to the plan.
Gillis’ presence at rehearsals has had a positive effect on cast members, says Linkletter, artistic director of children’s theatre.
The students are pushing themselves to be better than they ever expected they could be.
“The growth that I’ve seen in every one of them since October, when we decided that Kyle would be our Shrek, has been amazing. They’ve pushed so hard we’ve been able to teach more harmonies, harder dance steps, complicated blocking. They’ve really upped their game.”
The Guild’s CEO Alanna Jankov says the musical theatre students have outdone themselves in their presentation of Shrek. The community has played a major role as well.
This performance would not have been possible without the generous support from the community and our funders, and we are so grateful for their willingness and belief in our cultural hub.”
If you are going
- What: Shrek: The Musical, presented by The Guild
- When and where: Feb. 27 to March 1 at The Guild in Charlottetown
- Tickets: The show will open with a pay-what-you-can preview on Feb. 27, 7 p.m., and a pay-what-you-can matinee on Feb. 28, 2 p.m. All other tickets may be purchased at The Guild box office, in person, over the phone at 902-620-3333 or at www.theguildpei.com.
Getting to play her favourite role, Fiona, across from a professional actor is motivating, says advanced student Cat Cummins.
“It’s really cool to work with Kyle. He makes us want to work super, super hard because we want to match what he’s so good at.”
Gillis is grateful for the opportunity to mentor students.
“It’s a privilege and an honour to be in this position. I hope that I can set a good example. At my core I am very professional. I like to do my job well, but I also like to have fun, too, so, hopefully, they’ll take that away as well.”