Sweet Briar Theatre will present “Shrek the Musical” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23-Saturday, March 25, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 26, in Murchison Lane Auditorium at the Babcock Fine Arts Center.
Assistant professor of theater arts Melora Kordos will direct the musical. It is based on the Broadway production adapted from DreamWorks’ 2001 animated film and the 1990 book by William Steig.
“This has been one of the most fun shows I’ve ever directed,” Kordos says. “We have such a great time; this cast brings in endless ideas and bits to play with and we find ourselves laughing all throughout rehearsals.
“It’s a lively, engaging show that has a huge cast and lots of opportunities for really fun character exploration.”
One of those characters is Fiona, played by Taylor Watson ’20. Fiona is a princess — with a pretty major secret — held captive by a dragon. That secret, which we’ll keep here, gives rise to character development that Watson says stretches her acting repertoire. But inhabiting her character wasn’t hard at first.
“[We] are very similar. Fiona is very goofy and loves to sing and dance just like I do,” Watson says, noting that working on the musical has been an “absolute blast.”
While the large cast — 33 actors playing 67 parts — presents logistical challenges, it’s part of the reason the theater department chose “Shrek” for the spring production. There are a lot of first-year students this year, and Kordos says she wanted plenty of roles to go around.
With choreography, singing and scene rehearsals happening simultaneously in different rooms, actors playing multiple roles have to bounce from one to another, each time getting caught up on sections they missed.
“They take it all in stride and work very professionally,” Kordos said, adding they’re all “chomping at the bit” to bring the costumes into the mix.
“There is so much visual spectacle with these costumes that we can’t wait to see it all come to life on stage,” she said.
Jeff Price was recruited to play Shrek, the reclusive ogre who only agrees to help a band of fairytale characters so they’ll depart his swamp. Labeled freaks by the unpleasant Lord Farquaad, played by Karl Lindevalsen, they have been exiled from their own homes. One thing leads to another and in order to get his swamp and his solitude back, Shrek makes a deal with Farquaad to rescue Fiona from the dragon, played by Emma Thom ’18.
Along the way, Shrek reluctantly picks up a talkative sidekick in first-year Jordan Sack as Donkey. Playing a lead role for the first time, Sack says wearing Donkey’s skin doesn’t come naturally to her, but she’s meeting the challenge head on.
“It has been hard for me to dig into the more comedic side of the role, especially as I have never tackled a role that has required so much energy before,” she says. “However, I have enjoyed every minute of the process. Working on ‘Shrek’ has been an amazing experience. I love working with this cast and the dynamic we’ve created.”
Part of making it all come together is setting a stage that complements and accommodates the action.
“[Associate professor of theater arts and technical director] Cheryl Warnock has designed a fun storybook set that takes us from a swamp, to a castle, to a dungeon, and even a dragon’s keep,” Kordos says.
“With so many performers on stage, Cheryl has worked hard to give us a great design while also making sure there’s plenty of room for all these bodies to dance and run around. It’s going to be a vividly colorful show, a total one-eighty from ‘The Trojan Women’ earlier this year.”
Admission for the March 23 performance is free for all students and teachers. For all other performances, admission for non-SBC patrons is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for non-SBC students, and free for children younger than 12 and for SBC community members. The show is family-friendly and great for kids of all ages.
For more information, contact Kordos at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 381-6123.