There’s a new hero in town and he’s coming to Jacksonville Beach! Players by the Sea Theatre invites audiences of all ages to journey into the magical world of Shrek the Musical. The summer benefit production directed by Jason Nettle is staged July 19-Aug. 11 on the main stage (www.playersbythesea.org).
Shrek The Musical brings all the beloved characters to life including Donkey, Fiona, Lord Farquaad and the big green ogre himself as they sing and dance their way into our hearts. Joshua Bond is delighted to embody the role of Shrek in his triumphant return to the stage after a 10-year hiatus.
“I will be celebrating my 10-year anniversary to my wonderful, amazing wife Michelle this September. I actually met her doing theatre here in Jacksonville,” says Bond, who is also raising the couple’s two daughters, Taylor, 7 and Madison, 3. “When we met, I had done what I considered to be my Super Bowl. I got to do Tony in West Side Story with the Jacksonville Symphony. That was just awesome but I knew I wanted to have a family.”
Bond embraced family life and embarked on what his parents called “a real-world job,” leaving little time for the rigorous demands of rehearsal schedules and show runs.
“I had been singing for my supper for a long time. I’m able to scratch that itch as far as music goes because I help lead worship at Crossroads Church. Until recently,” he laughed. “I don’t know when Jason Nettle found out he was directing Shrek but he definitely planted a seed. I told my wife I think this will be good for my physical health and my mental health getting back to what I love. It was such a huge part of my life for such a long time.”
When he arrived at the auditions, Bond says he didn’t know the physicality that would be involved in the process so he danced with the rest of the hopeful still wearing his “church clothes.” The juxtaposition created the perfect visual balance he needed to see it through.
“There are so many heartstring moments and the writers of the show have done such a beautiful job with the book and the music to really pull them,” says Bond. “And my daughters love the fart song so it’s been fun getting to find those moments where you get to be silly.”
The transformation from man to ogre is an intense process and Bond was overwhelmed by the commitment of the team to make Shrek a dynamic character in voice and appearance. “We have such a great team. I literally did not know what to expect coming in. I thought maybe we’ll get some green paint and bring this character to life,” he says. “I was so over-the- top surprised to see what they’ve put into the costumes. It’s so exciting.”
Once he undergoes his physical transformation, Bond navigates the swampy waters of Shrek’s past to help him find his way. The bond with Donkey, played by Theodore Canty, is evident in the chemistry the two shares on stage.
“It’s like ‘I give up. You’ve been annoying for so long but I guess I’ll let you be my friend’. His heart is out there but he isn’t sure what anyone is going to do with it,” Bond says. “We’ve quickly developed a very comfortable relationship. He’s a great guy and he’s going 100 miles an hour all the time with this character.”
Audiences feel such a deep reverence for the animated version of the characters in Shrek and Bond is hopeful that his portrayal as the affable ogre will capture their attention and their hearts. “Even though a lot of the things that have been thrown into his world like the fairy tale creatures and this donkey and then meeting this princess who he eventually begins to fall in love with, there’s different wants and things that have been inside this whole time that start to come out,” he says. “Just the word ogre has a lot of weight. He even refers to himself as a ‘big, stupid, ugly ogre’ because that’s what’s he’s been known as his entire life. It’s fun trying to walk that line.”