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Man in the green mask

We go behind the scenes with Shrek the Musical-and behind the makeup with Shrek himself.

 (Photo: Erica McKeehen)
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Photo: Erica McKeehen
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Photo: Erica McKeehen

It takes two hours and a whole lot of stage makeup to turn Carol Stream native Eric Petersen into the slime green ogre that is Shrek. He understudied the role on Broadway, but come Tuesday 13, he’ll become the larger-than-life lead every night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, then in cities across country on the show’s national tour. Before performing in the Windy City for the first time at a special Taste of Chicago teaser performance, he dished with us on the transformation.

So to become Shrek, you really sit there for two straight hours?
Yep, two full hours: an hour and 45 minutes of makeup, and then 15 minutes to get into costume. First comes the skullcap, then prosthetic pieces for my forehead, nose and cheeks, so really only my eyes and mouth get painted green. Then foam gloves for my hands, and the fat suit and five-pound boots.

That’s got to be challenging, moving around in the fat suit and gloves on stage.
Honestly, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically—I’ve already lost ten pounds. For singing, every breath I take has to be huge, because the fat suit weighs 40 pounds. But—it sounds artsy-fartsy and actory—but once you’re this ogre in this big fat suit, the costume really gets you into character.

We heard your wife is about to have a little girl any day now—congrats. Is the baby going to grow up knowing you as Shrek?
Yeah, my wife could literally give birth this second, and I’m thinking, what if I hold the baby and she thinks I’m Shrek all the time? But babies can’t see details right away, so hopefully I’ll just be this nice, big green blob to her.

Shrek the Musical runs Tuesday 13 through September 5.

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