UNC Musical Theatre major Jeffrey Zicker put his education on hold last year to join the national tour of the hit Broadway play Shrek: The Musical, filling multiple roles, including an alternating one as Shrek. He's returned to school for his senior year and has no regrets about either of his decisions.
Zicker was asked to audition for Shrek in summer 2012 by a casting director who remembered him from earlier unsuccessful auditions for the national tour of Beauty and the Beast.
When the director subsequently called to tell him he needed to fill roles for the Shrek tour, Zicker immediately booked a flight to New York City. Three weeks later he landed the roles and began rehearsals in mid-September.
"I almost dropped the phone when I got the call because I was shaking from being so excited and thrilled," said Zicker, who has dreamed of an acting career since middle school.
Before Shrek, he had performed in several UNC productions, done voice overs for a few radio commercials and acted as an extra in a television commercial.
Zicker said that with a one-year contract for the tour, he felt comfortable dropping out of school to pursue his dream. He knew he could return to finish his degree after the tour ended.
As the alternate Shrek, Zicker donned green paint and transformed himself into the popular character at least once a week. When he wasn't Shrek, he performed as an ensemble dancer and as the characters Pig and Papa Ogre, and was the understudy for the role of Lord Farquaad.
During the seven months of the tour, which ended in April, Zicker performed in 200 shows in 70 cities across the United States and Canada, including his hometown of Las Vegas. Along the way, he visited Mount Rushmore, and spent Thanksgiving on a beach in South Carolina.
"I was enthralled to be able to do what I love every single day, and then be able to travel the country while doing it was the greatest gift in the world," Zicker said.
He did experience fatigue during the tour though.
"Touring was difficult," Zicker said. "You'd spend seven or eight hours at a time on a bus for four or five days a week."
He traveled with only two suitcases, a small duffle bag and a backpack. The tour cast often traveled close to 1,000 miles a week in the close confines of a bus, which led to frequent illness among the actors. While performing in Kansas City, Zicker went to an emergency room twice, suffering from a 102-degree fever and severe tonsillitis.
Despite the inconveniences of life on the road, his zeal for the theater remained strong. In addition to the traveling and the glamour of performing, his favorite part of the experience was the audience members. He loved to see kids gathered at the stage door after a show, waiting to meet the cast members. Many of the kids were so enthralled by the performances that oftentimes they said they too wanted to be actors.
"The theater industry is a tough industry," Zicker said. "It requires every ounce of energy and life you have to give it. However, when this art form gives back to you, it gives back tenfold what you put into it."
- Alyse DeVan, Senior Journalism Major
The tour map for Shrek: The Musical shows the 70 stops during the 2012-13 national tour.