A musical version of ‘Shrek’ perfectly in tune with the holiday spirit
CHARLES TOWN – With an unusual princess trapped in a tower, a non-traditional champion on a quest to set her free and a pint-sized villain opposing the pair, “Shrek” doesn’t share much in common with most fairy tales.
And it may not seem to have much of a tie to the holidays either.
But Steven Brewer, who is directing “Shrek: The Musical,” which debuts Friday at the Old Opera House, said that while this production isn’t the typical Christmas story, it does meet his main criterion for a Christmas show – one the whole family will enjoy.
“You can bring a 6-year-old to see it, but it’s not just for kids,” said Brewer, who also is the historic theater’s managing and artistic director. “This show is perfect for families, and isn’t that what the holidays are all about?”
This Tony-nominated musical version of “Shrek” first became a hit on Broadway in late 2008, seven years after the Oscar-winning movie came out. Both are based on William Steig’s 1990 children’s book.
The story begins with the title character, a happily disagreeable ogre content in his solitude, getting to know the Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio and other fairy tale favorites after they crowd into his swamp. They’ve been forced from their homeland by Lord Farquaad and so Shrek travels there.
“It’s absurd and funny,” said Shawn Nakia, who plays Farquaad, the tiny man with a huge ego who rules the land of Duloc. “It’s always fun to play a villain. He’s just so comical – and he thinks he’s hot stuff.”
Shrek ends up entering into a deal with Farquaad and soon after encounters the imprisoned Princess Fiona.
Says Karilee Grossnickle, who portrays Fiona: “He’s expecting a dainty little princess, but she’s tough.”
Grossnickle said Fiona’s years in the tower has left her emotionally stunted. “One minute she’s singing with the birds and tap dancing with rats like Snow White, and the next minute she literally turns in to another person. She’s one of the few things that scares Shrek – she intimidates him.”
Andrew McClain portrays Donkey, the chatterbox who befriends Shrek. Comedian Eddie Murphy provided the character’s memorable voice in the original film and its sequels. “I grew up with the movie and the famous lines were just instilled in my mind,” McClain said. “There’s a reason [Shrek]’s a hit – because it’s funny.”
McClain said he aims to provide Donkey with the voice Murphy made famous. It’s the same for Edgar Conn, who plays Shrek. He said he knows everyone in the audience will want to hear that famous Scottish brogue.
To prepare for the role, Conn said he spent “a lot” of time studying dialect sheets from his time as a theater student at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and he also watched the movie “a lot.”
He said he’s thrilled at the chance to bring Shrek to life on stage.
“Shrek is not only a dream role for me, but one I can really relate to,” he said. “(Shrek’s) not only on this quest to find the princess, but [to find] friends as well. … I think it’s a story almost anyone can relate to.”
“Shrek: The Musical” features tunes by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. Following Friday’s opening night, nine more performances are slated at the Old Opera House through Dec. 22.
Want to go?
What: “Shrek: The Musical”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19; 2:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and Dec. 22
Where: Old Opera House, 208 N. George St., Charles Town
How much: $10 students for all shows;
$19 for adults Friday and Saturday shows,
$15 for Thursdays and $17 for Sunday matinees.
For more: Go online to oldoperahouse.org or call 304-725-4420