Lukas Poost started playing Shrek when he was in sixth grade.
"I was one of those kids who had one of those sound recorder things, so I did record a whole lot of it and play it back," said Poost, who grew up in Wyalusing, Pa. "But I never said, 'I'm going to play this someday on a huge stage and sing songs to it.' I never in my lifetime thought that."
But playing the lovable green ogre made famous in DreamWorks films is indeed what Poost is doing now, around the country, in Shrek the Musical. The show comes to the Lexington Opera House for five performances this weekend.
"It's definitely a dream role," Poost said.
There is quite a bit more to the role than just reciting lines. For starters, there is the dozens of pounds of costume to put on.
"It's a lot of prosthetics and glue and paint on top of everything," says Poost, who must start getting into costume two hours before show time. "The wardrobe is a 45-pound fat suit with a shirt, pants and a vest, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes to put on. It's a huge process getting me ready every day, and by the end, even my parents say it's quite a transformation from Lukas Poost to Shrek."
And it isn't a process anyone would want to go through twice a day. On Saturdays and Sundays, when there are afternoon and evening performances of the show, Poost says he just stays in most of the costume backstage. So don't expect to bump into a big green ogre in line at Starbucks between shows.
Not that he hasn't thought about it.
"I wanted to go to a big-and-tall store and get a huge set of clothes I could wear outside, like Shrek street clothes," Poost says. "That would be really fun."
Shrek isn't the only character who undergoes a big transformation to play his part.
Donkey has an extensive costume to wear, and the actor playing Farquad plays most of the show on his knees.
Whatever the discomfort, Poost says, it is worth it to play an iconic character.
"There was something about the character of Shrek that was really fun, really funny," Poost said. "He was kind of a charming, disgusting guy. He would have fit in with my family — a sort of loose, easygoing, no-farts-barred sort of household."
Playing Shrek, though, has allowed Poost to see beyond some of the lines and gastrointestinal issues.
"Shrek's heart really comes out in the production," Poost says. "You see the pull between what he knows or what he thinks he knows ogres have to be and what he's told everyone thinks ogres are supposed to be, and the pull of what he wants to be and what he is. He's a hero.
"After they rescue the princess, Donkey is really open-minded and says, 'Gee, I can be anything I want. I can be one of those Budweiser horses.' He is so open, and then he asks Shrek what he wants to be, and he is so closed down by his understanding of the world, he doesn't understand he can be anything he wants."
But, eventually Shrek does realize he can achieve his goals, Poost said, and "he goes on a real journey."
In that journey, Shrek is not unlike an actor who realizes that a character he loved to mimic in childhood is one he can play in a big stage production.
Poost admits, though, that he wouldn't mind if his next role was one he could play in a T-shirt and jeans.