We are sitting down with Joel Varty, an actor who has portrayed characters for VOS such as Bob Wallace in White Christmas, Curly in Oklahoma, and Sir Robin in Spamalot. Now he’s back onstage with Shrek the Musical in a role that may not be in his comfort zone.
VOS: Joel, how tall are you?
Joel Varty: Just over six foot three. I’m pretty used to being the tallest person on stage.
VOS: How did the production team cut you down to size for this role?
JV: That’s a good way of putting it really, because, in addition to being on my knees, I also needed a bit of an attitude adjustment. It’s a whole new way of approaching the stage physically and emotionally, both from my point of view as an actor, and also as the character. Farquaad is a far cry from anything I’ve ever done before.
VOS: How do you deal with the physical aspect of being on your knees onstage for so long?
JV: It’s been a process.
We started out with research on what other actors have done who’ve played the part and looked at what kind of look the director wanted to achieve. We built up a custom-made rig from a whole bunch of different things. From construction grade knee pads, to umpire’s leg guards, to aluminum rods used to hold everything in place.
VOS: So, what’s it like being the shortest person on stage?
JV: Well the funny thing about Farquaad is that, in his mind, he’s not little at all. He thinks of himself as a big man, the king, and really, he thinks he’s the hero of the show. He never got the memo that he’s the villain. So I guess my answer is that I don’t really know what it’s like, because I’m just like Farquaad. I’m still a tall guy onstage that just happens to be underneath everybody else’s eye level. Wierd.
VOS: What can audiences expect from this show?
JV: First of all, I am very proud to say that we have J.P. Baldwin appearing onstage, (by permission of Canadian Actors Equity) and he and I have some really fun scenes together. He plays Pinochhio as well as Farquaad’s lackey executioner, Thelonius. Mix in some Steve Russell, blend it with Marlena Sculthorpe and toss in a Donkey named Jamie Hunt. It’s all good. We have a great time both in character and backstage.
Audiences should expect to be entertained, but also to use their own imaginations, which is how this story translates so well from screen to stage. It’s about tearing down barriers and building relationships. Also lots of singing and dancing. And a dragon.
Don’t miss Joel as Lord Farquaad in the VOS Production of Shrek the Musical! Shows run Thursday to Sunday this week, and the Thursday to Saturday next week.