A Lynn musical theatre star will be bringing his best West End performance to home turf when Shrek The Musical comes to the Norwich stage this June.
The former Springwood High School student has spent the last year touring the UK with Rent the Musical, but now Kevin Yates, is looking forward to reprising his first professional role out of drama school, with a lot of added responsibility.
Mr Yates, 27, said: “I can’t wait, Shrek was my debut as a musical theatre actor so it is wonderful to come back to the show that taught me so much.
“You go to drama school and try to learn as much as you can dancing, singing, acting-wise, but it is only when you get your first job that you not only learn how the industry works but also important life lessons, especially when you are touring.
“To come back to it again is like returning to an old friend.”
Theatre-goers might struggle to recognise him in the street as he plays multiple characters in a variety of costumes and make-up, from one of the three little pigs and a happy villager to being the puppeteer for Puss in Boots and the head of the dragon.
He said: “Last time I was second understudy for Donkey. This time around I am first understudy, so it is a bit more responsibility. As of yet, I’ve not been on as Donkey, but have now had all of my understudy rehearsals so I am fully certified and ready to go on whenever.
“My ensemble role is Papa Bear, which is my main character. Last time I was one of the pigs and the pigs have the best fun in the show as they have such a playful naughty nature they can get away with anything. With Papa Bear, he has his wife and child and it is strange to go on stage and feel responsibility for them.”
He added: “There are times when Baby Bear runs off stage and I think ‘Oh god, where are you going now?’. I’ve clearly got a strong paternal instinct. Now I get it – I understand what my mother went through!”
He is also doing a lot of puppetry work, as the Fiona puppet and the giraffe puppet, and he is back in the head of the Dragon, but this time he is also puppet captain.
Mr Yates said: “It’s a nice responsibility to have. The dragon is very big. I have to lip sync her movements with the singer’s voice and I feel like I am channelling her.”
The show was previously at Norwich’s Theatre Royal around three years ago, and when the last tour ended in February 2016, Kevin then went into Rent the Musical.
He said: “I had an injury at the end of Shrek so I couldn’t do the last venue, but I had physiotherapy and was doing lots of exercises and then got back into auditions. So I was recovering when Rent the Musical came up.
“It was the 20th anniversary cast and the actual 20th anniversary date was while we were on tour, so I had a really good time during the nine-month tour around the UK.”
Between Shrek finishing and Rent starting, Kevin had a six-month break and moved back home to Lynn.
He said: “I got back in touch with my roots which was lovely. I got to see a lot of old school friends. I had a lovely response from everyone and they are all very supportive.
“I love Lynn and had such a wonderful time growing up there. I was very lucky. It’s a town that celebrates its art.”
Kevin was part of the Kinetic Theatre at Springwood High School, and also at the Footlights Dance Centre, now Studio 19.
He said: “I didn’t know I was going to become a professional - it was just lovely to have something to go to that wasn’t sport as I wasn’t particularly a sporty young man. I was always more creative and wanting to perform.”
He was first inspired to get up on a stage at the age of five or six when he saw his sister performing in a school play.
He said: “I saw her do that and I said that’s what I want to do. I didn’t think I would ever be doing it to earn money, but then as you grow people try to point you in the direction of the next step which was to go to drama school, so I thought OK I’ll try to do that. I’m very glad I was pushed as I’m not highly competitive. My aim is to carry on doing the work and to keep performing.”
Mr Yates is looking forward to having friends and family in the audience at the Norwich show, from June 26 to July 8.
He said: “It’s so lovely to be able to perform in front of the people who are the reason you are where you are. When I see my old singing teachers coming to see me, I feel like it’s a performance for them and a big thank you from me because you should never forget where you came from.
“If it wasn’t for the teachers and everyone who supported me and came to see the shows when I was in school, then I wouldn’t have the confidence I have now. It’s due to that support that I am able to do what I do.”
He added: “It’s fun –filled and uplifting and family friendly. It has something for everyone. You have Lord Farquaad supplying the humour for the parents, you’ve got Donkey entertaining the kids, but then you’ve got the very important message that at the end of the day what you look like is irrelevant.
“It is the love you feel for each other that is important. I do think it’s such an important message to teach children. I think that’s why people love Shrek.”
Tickets available: www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk