The musical is adapted from the 2001 animated film and children’s book by William Steig about a giant green ogre and his manic donkey who make a deal with the corrupt Lord Farquaad to rescue Farquaad’s intended bride Princess Fiona, played by Durack. The family-friendly musical is big on fairytales, farts and feminism, which is what drew Durack to the character in the first place.
“She has the same insecurities as most of us do – male or female – that maybe we’re not good enough,” says Durack. “And she does go on that journey of being OK with who you are and not needing to fit any kind of stereotype. But I like that she does come to that – that she is enough – and finds self-acceptance.”
The other fairytale trope Shrek the Musical leans heavily on is the transformative power of “true love’s first kiss”. Can Durack remember hers?
“My very first kiss was spin the bottle when I was 11,” she says. “That was probably my first love. I was in the children’s chorus of Carmen and we’d locked our chaperone out of the dressing room – this was the most showbiz my childhood ever got – and we were in there with a Pasito bottle and I kissed, I think, three boys and I was like, ‘This is awesome!’”
Durack has been a recognisable name since she first appeared in the musical Wicked as the good witch Glinda in 2008 and as dippy lawyer Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical in 2012, for which she won a Helpmann Award for best female actor in a musical. A string of television work has followed, including most recently in the ABC comedy The Letdown, in which she played the highly strung mum-of-one Sophie.
It’s here that life has not quite imitated art, with even Durack’s doctor getting her confused with her on-screen character.
“It’s funny, because I play Sophie, who’s incontinent, in The Letdown, and even my obstetrician said, ‘How are you going with your incontinence?’” she says, laughing. “I said, ‘I don’t even have incontinence, I just play somebody who does.’ So people just assume I do. But I’ve had two caesars, I’m fine.”
Shrek the Musical is at the Lyric Theatre, Pyrmont, from January 1.