“ACT like a young child” — that was the advice given to Damien Ross, who is preparing to play the character of Donkey in Shrek the Musical.
Damien (40), of Rosslyn Avenue, Aston, will be taking on the role of the famous sidekick at Sheffield’s Lyceum theatre from November 12 to 16.
The show, produced by one of South Yorkshire’s biggest amateur theatre companies, STOS, is the stage adaptation of the smash hit Hollywood movie and animated comedy favourite — a crazy reboot of some familiar fairy tales with a contemporary twist.
Damien’s first show with STOS was Witches of Eastwick in 2005 and since then he has appeared in various productions with the company including Buddy the Musical, which tells the story of Buddy Holly.
He began rehearsing for Shrek in June and he told the Advertiser he was still perfecting the mannerisms of Donkey – a role voiced memorably on the big screen by comic actor Eddie Murphy.
“People have an understanding of how he will sound and look,” said Damien.
“I’m still trying to get that sound and any mannerisms like he has.”
Damien got through a three-week audition process, which was done through a series of workshops, and fought off competition from six others for the role.
“The director told me I should act like a young child and that’s how my character is going to be,” he said.
“It’s like a young child who wants constant attention.
“Eddie Murphy has quite a quick pace when he talks but that quick pace can get lost in a garble, so it’s making sure I have a happy medium.”
Damien is originally from New South Wales, Australia, and moved to South Yorkshire in 2004 — but he said he would be giving Donkey an American accent, just like the original character.
He said he had been acting since 1997, and that his partner, Sara Hibberd, would be playing Princess Fiona in the production.
“It’s going to be a popular show,” he said.
“I have been to the show two or three times before and everyone comes out happy and singing along.
“I hope it is one of those shows that makes people feel good at the end.”
The production team at STOS Theatre Company have a budget of £110,000 which will make it their most expensive show to date.
It will feature a fully-functioning dragon and a host of special effects that will, for example, transform a fairytale princess into a troll.
David Streeter, STOS treasurer, said: “This has to be the first time I’ve ever had to set a four-figure nose budget!
“It’s that sort of show of course, with so many different characters to be made up, and if they don’t look the way people expect them to look then they will be disappointed.
“In fact, what we want is for anybody who simply walks in off the street to see the show without any prior knowledge not to be able to tell the difference between the professional version and our version.
“One of the biggest challenges for a company like ours is investing in shows that people want to see.
“In this case, people want to see a much-loved animation come to life and that’s why we are spending so much on costumes, sets and production values.”
Shrek The Musical is at the Lyceum from November 12 to 16.
For tickets call 0114 249 6000 or visit http://sheffieldtheatres.co.uk