Unlike most musical theatre performers, Rhys Velasquez rarely knows what he's going to be doing when the opening curtain goes up for Shrek the Musical.
While most cast members have set roles, Mr Velasquez is the 'swing' and knows the roles of nine different male ensemble members and, in an emergency, can perform four of the female ensemble roles too.
His role is to fill in for ensemble members who are ill or away, or wait in the wings in case a cast member injures themselves or falls ill during a performance.
Shrek the Musical opens at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne this month and it's a homecoming for Mr Velasquez who, although growing up in Queensland and studying in Ballarat, now calls Melbourne home.
WATCH THE TRANSFORMATION OF ACTOR BEN MINGAY IN TO SHREK
In 2010, leaving Queensland had not in Mr Velasquez's plans but a chance discovery of the Federation University Arts Academy musical theatre course changed his life.
"There was no real opportunity in Queensland to study music theatre, so I had to look elsewhere. I went to see Fame in Brisbane and looking through the program, mum found that four of the leads had trained in Ballarat.
"That course was never really on my radar as the people I knew didn't know about it. Immediately I wanted to audition for the course but we found out the Queensland auditions had already been held, so mum organised me to fly down to Ballarat the next week to audition."
The audition was a success and he moved to Ballarat in 2011, graduating from the musical theatre course in 2013 in awe of his talented fellow students and staff.
"Growing up in Ipswich there was quite a lot of theatre to be part of and I did a lot with my dance school but I was a big fish in a little pond - I was the person doing all the shows and then to go down and see how many talented people there are out there and being alongside those people pushes you to get better and better," he said.
After graduation he moved to Melbourne and has been doing the 'hard yards' of acting ever since, working as a performer, creative and in casting throughout Australia and overseas.
"No matter which production you're in you'll always find others who trained at Ballarat," he said.
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