Sandra DeNise wants those considering seeing Shrek The Musical to know it’s a love story that delivers a powerful message.
DeNise should know. She plays the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy as well as a myriad of other ensemble parts. She’s also the understudy for the character Fiona.
“I like to tell people it’s not only a love story between Shrek and Fiona, it’s really a love story about self love,” said DeNise. “Even though you are different, you are special. And it’s the differences that are beautiful. That’s a very important message these days, especially for kids.”
For DeNise, who was born in Atlanta and grew up in Decatur, the stop at the Fox Theatre (running April 26 through May 1) of the touring production of Shrek The Musical brings her home.
This is her third time on the Fox Theatre stage. She performed there during the touring productions of Rent and Parade. Both times she said she had an emotional experience, acting at a venue where she saw some of her first theatrical shows.
DeNise, the daughter of Derry and Delores DeNise, attended The Paideia School in Atlanta, where she performed in musicals and was a member of the Madrigals choir. She received early guidance from Nancy Oliver, children’s choir director at Peachtree Christian Church, and Rand Hopkins, a local playwright who gave her parts in his plays. Her summers were spent at the Atlanta Workshop Players Performing Arts Camp.
After high school, DeNise studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While there, she was cast in A Chorus Line, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She also had parts in Hairspray, Jersey Boys and Happy Days the Musical. Among her television and film credits are: Georgia Rule, That ‘70s Show, Gilmore Girls and ER.
Shrek The Musical is currently on its last leg of a yearlong 33-city run. The production will wrap after trekking through 10 more cities.
“It can be exhausting,” said DeNise, noting they do eight shows a week. However she said she loves performing—particularly seeing the enjoyment of audiences and how theater can lift spirits. “It’s a great opportunity. I get to see the country. I really can’t complain.”
DeNise, who is 34, also she’s at a point in her life when many friends have married and are having children. She’s trying to figure out if she wants to dedicate time for a relationship and a family or remain focused on her career.
“Getting paid to do what I love to do [only] a small percentage of people get to say that,” she commented.
When the production ends, DeNise, who moved from Los Angeles to New York City just prior to joining Shrek, said that she plans to take a month off to relax.
She cites her family, Chic-fil-A and hospitality among the things she misses most about the South. However she said she will also miss her adopted family when the production wraps.
“You really become a family with the people you work with, not just the actors, the crew, musicians…carpenters,” said DeNise. “It’s really an exceptional community to be a part of .”