Whitney Winfield was just 8 years old when she first decided she wanted to be in theater. After attending a local performance of "The Sound of Music," she said she got up on stage and said to her mother, 'Mom, find me a play to be in.'"
The Naples, Fla., native, now 22, stars as Princess Fiona in "Shrek The Musical," an off-Broadway production based on the Oscar-winning film. The troupe will stop Tuesday, Dec. 18, at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center on the campus of Shippensburg University in Shippensburg.
Princess Fiona is a feisty princess who is rescued by a swamp-dwelling ogre known as Shrek. Winfield said her character is more human than the way the character is portrayed in the 2001 animated movie, "Shrek."
"I think she gets to show more of her sensitive side, perhaps than the one in film. I think she's just more colorful in the musical version," Winfield said during a telephone interview from Wilmington, Del., where the show performed last week.
"(The play) is definitely one of the funnier musicals that has passed through the Broadway stage," she said.
Does Winfield consider herself funny? "Up until maybe a year ago, I would say no, but I've taken some improv classes ... and this role calls for a lot of comedy, so in this case, I'd say yes," she said with a laugh.
In 2011, she competed in a talent competition, "The Next Broadway Star." The performances took place on the balcony of McDonald's restaurant on 42nd Street in New York, which is said to be the world's highest-grossing McDonald's.
"It was definitely good exposure," she said. "A lot of Broadway people came out to support the contest. We (got) to perform and record video and have feedback from some pretty important people," she said.
During the competition, Winfield received high praise for her rendition of "Sin Wagon," a song made popular by country music trio The Dixie Chicks.
Winfield said she was encouraged early on by her father to strive for a career in country music.
She said she won many country karaoke contests in Florida and performed country music at various state fairs.
"I considered a career in country music for a little while," she said. "But then I decided I really wasn't into it. I don't think I wanted to be associated with country music at the time because it wasn't the popular thing to do. But now I'm proud of that part of my past."
Winfield, who graduated in May from Pace University in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater, said her role in "Shrek The Musical" is her first leading role in a major production. While in school, she did educational theater, regional theater in Maine and local jobs in Florida. She has worked in a variety of shows, including "Chicago," "The Who's Tommy" and "All Shook Up."
"Shrek The Musical" began as a six-month commitment, set to wrap in April in Reno, Nev.
"This is actually the third national tour of 'Shrek,'" Winfield said. "We have a lot more one-nighters. We go a lot longer, we have fewer breaks, but the tour itself is shorter," she said.
This schedule, Winfield said, translates into a mere three-day break for Christmas. "(The break) is pretty quick."
As for life after "Shrek The Musical," Winfield said anything is possible.
"You kind of fly by the seat of your pants in this industry. We'll be auditioning and looking for the next job. And hopefully this job will lead to the next," she said.
If you go ...
WHAT: "Shrek The Musical"
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18
Where: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.
COST: Tickets cost $35 to $52
Contact: Call 717-477-7469 or go to luhrscenter.com
More: The show's running time is about 2 1/2 hours. More information about the show is at www.shrekthemusicalontour.com