Shrek comes to the Fox Theatre

The cast of “Shrek the Musical” takes the stage in the show’s preview performances. The production will come to Atlanta for three performances between April 6 and 7 at the Fox Theatre in Midtown Atlanta. // Photo courtesy of Full Out Creative

The story of “Shrek” is well-known. Since its creation, the characters and storyline, plus Smash Mouth’s songs, made for a timeless success. An ostracized ogre undergoes a harrowing adventure to save a princess while finding love and friendship on the way. This fan-favorite story was adapted into a musical in 2008, leading to a multitude of Tony Award nominations and Drama Desk Awards. This year, the beloved musical returns with a fresh face and new cast but the same enjoyable experience.

It is difficult to breathe new life into a beloved story while maintaining its charm. Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire reframed the focus of “Shrek The Musical” to emphasize self-love and promote authenticity within yourself. This “familiar yet refreshingly new” take includes a smaller cast and crew that bring with them a more intimate performance.

Of course, what would Shrek be without its dragon? The talented Tori Kocher brings the fire to this character as one of the cast members bringing the musical to life. In between performances, Kocher sat down for an interview to discuss the revitalization of “Shrek the Musical” and her journey leading up to this role. 

Beginning her career in theater at a young age, Kocher attended Belmont University for a BFA in musical theater and began performing full-time soon after. Her draw to audition for Shrek is similar to why fans watch it: a love for the story. Kocher explained that “I have a connection with the original movie. I watched it a lot, and it was one of my favorites.” 

This love is not the only motivation, however. Kocher was part of the musical playing Fiona as a kid and loved being in it. 

“It’s also a show very about acceptance and celebrating differences, and that’s something I really see myself being an important part of. It’s not just a fun show, it has a great message behind it,” she said about the musical.

Even with big shoes to fill, 2024’s “Shrek the Musical” reinvigorates your love for Shrek through a deeper meaning and, as Kocher says, “This time around, it’s stripped down and you see a lot of yourself in the characters. Everyone is very human in a way.” 

With only 15 or 16 cast members, the production emphasizes the beautiful lyricism within the story.  

She said, “Throughout the rehearsal process I would cry because I would feel like I was seeing this scene for the first time. I feel like I’m hearing these lyrics for the first time even though I’ve heard it a million times.”

Every scene is purposeful. Tesori and Lindsay-Abaire worked hand-in-hand with the cast in giving direction to ensure there was no guesswork. 

Kocher said, “To hear directly from them what each thing meant and the importance of each thing is an experience most actors would dream of having. It was such a gift because the integrity of the story came through as well as possible.”

The beauty of this production lies in the cast reflecting the story. 

The phrase “What makes us special makes us strong” is a favorite of the director. “Shrek” celebrates each person’s differences as a strength, and Kocher spoke on how the cast lives out this value. 

“This is a very diverse cast in every sense of the way. It is definitely the most diverse group of people I’ve ever worked with in background, race, body size and neurodivergency. It shows because anyone can see themselves not just represented but celebrated,” she said. “As a plus-sized woman, I am often put in roles that are all about that. I’ve played some great roles that I love, but the whole story arc is that I’m plus sized. But with this, I’m playing a badass dragon.” 

The inclusivity does not end there. Kocher explained how her experience as an autistic woman is supported among the rest of the production. 

“I feel so supported by the people backstage. I am an actor with autism as well, which is something that during tech week and trying things for the first time was very hard for me with all the different textures of the outfit and very quick transitions. I did have a meltdown the first time it happened, but everyone was so supportive and found a wayfor it to work for me.”

The beauty of Dragon comes from her personality. Kocher spoke about how her personality completely contradicts Dragon’s and how that opposition builds a fun creative space for her to work in. 

“She’s my alter ego. I am nothing like her,” she said. “I’m always wearing pink and pastels … I’m very soft, but as soon as I put that wig on I start acting different.” 

Here lies the fun of theater. The ability to completely change personas. Kocher said, “I really get to be the true diva … it really is a run role with the dramatics.”

The production could never run without the work of the tech, costume, makeup and all behind-the-scenes workers. While audiences do not see the preparation that goes into a performance, a cast this small takes on more than just one role. 

The production begins with all its members wearing their “puppeteer blacks,” which is an outfit entirely of black that allows the cast to transition into other roles throughout the acts. 

The story begins with baby Shrek and continues on the traditional storyline fans are accustomed to. Aside from Fiona, Shrek and Donkey, every other cast member takes on other roles. 

Kocher plays the captain of the guard in charge of the fairytale processing in the swamp in the beginning. 

Her costume consists of a vest and helmet on top of her puppeteer blacks. Later, she plays a Dulocian until her final transformation into Dragon, consisting of a 20-foot-long tail puppeteered by someone else, a wig, a dress, makeup and, of course, glitter.

To any aspiring theater students, Kocher advises not to focus on fitting in. 

“To compare is to despair,” she said. In a world of auditions, there is no point in trying to fit in just to act like everyone else. 

“I spent a lot of time early in my career trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be,” she said.Instead, she believes in leaning into what makes you different and staying strong through any rejection or discouraging auditions.

Simply put, “Shrek the Musical” is a “colorful, unique, funny, celebratory, wholesome” adventure. 

“Shrek the Musical” makes its way to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre for three performances between April 6 and 7 as part of its 2024 North American tour. Find tickets at