Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
UCPE Presents Shrek the Musical
(Article reposted with permission from the Enquirer Journal)
Director Larry Robinson calls the production ‘challenging’
Students from across the county will bring fairy tale characters and the residents of Dulaac to life later this month.
The Union County Performance Ensemble is performing “Shrek: The Musical” a musical based on the 2001 film, which is based on William Steig’s 1990 picture book.
Audiences will meet Shrek, a grumpy ogre; Donkey, his chatty friend; Fiona, a princess with a secret; and a cast of beloved characters like Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man.
Larry Robinson, a theater teacher at Central Academy of Technology and Arts, said they have wanted to perform “Shrek” for at least two years, but were waiting for the rights to the show to be released.
“It was so new and also the fact that it’s a very challenging piece,” Robinson said.
He said when the performance ensemble was established 15 years ago, one of the reasons was to have a group of students that could perform challenging work that would be difficult for a single school to perform.
This year’s show has about about 90 students involved on stage and behind-the-scenes.
The students come from Forest Hills High School, Piedmont High School, CATA, Weddington High School, Marvin Ridge High School, Porter Ridge High School and Sun Valley High School.
“One of the things that I love about this group is the enthusiasm they bring” and the enthusiasm they take back to their schools, Robinson said. He said that the students will often go see each other’s spring performances at their own schools.
The students involved love the show and are excited to perform. Robinson said that when one student has a solo, other cast members will often sing along because they love the music so much.
The set is a major challenge, Robinson said. They are still working to figure out a few things.
There are rapid and difficult transitions and a wedding scene that is particularly difficult.
One of the challenging parts, the dragon, is being taken care of by another school. The ensemble teamed up with Weaver Academy in Greensboro. Weaver will provide the dragon and the performance ensemble will provide the costumes.
Many of the costumes are being made for the show, production manager and costume designer Lisa Stafford said. Stafford is a theater teacher at Sun Valley High School. She said there are more than 100 costumes in the production.
She said since the show has very specific characters, she was hoping they would be able to rent some of the costumes, but since it is new, that has been a challenge.
“We have been creating a lot of things,” Stafford said.
The villain Lord Farquaad and Humpty Dumpty’s costumes have been particularly challenging. She said they have learned to be creative with what they have access to and some of the students have been bringing things from home to see if they might work.
Stafford said working with the performance ensemble is “one of my favorite things in the world.”
She said she likes working with students that she would otherwise never see. This production is especially enjoyable because it is the first opportunity she has had to work with her son on stage, she said. Her son is one of the actors playing Lord Farquaad.
The students are excited to put on the production, though Stafford noted, it is a lot to throw at them, especially for students who have never been involved in the performance ensemble or done theater.
For Aahsihia Reed, a senior at CATA, this will be his first time performing in a play. He will be performing as Shrek.
“(I) figured I should break out of my shy shell,” Reed said, when asked why he auditioned.
Landing the lead role came as a surprise.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I was not expecting Shrek.”
He said he has enjoyed meeting all of the new people from different schools and this is a “great start” for future theater performances.
“I’m happy to be in the show,” Reed said.
For Reed, Shrek’s Scottish accent has been a challenge to master.
The four main roles (Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and Lord Farquaad) are double-casted, meaning that there are two students cast in each part and they will play the role in different performances.
DaShon Crowder, a senior at Forest Hills High Schools, is also playing Shrek. This is his first year performing with the performance ensemble.
While he was cast as the butler in Forest Hill’s production of “Annie,” this is his first time having lines in a production. He was also very surprised by the casting.
While he is nervous about singing in front of people, he said he is glad he tried out.
For Romel Mencia, a junior at Sun Valley High School, there was only one reason to try out and that was to play Donkey.
“I was just really excited,” Mencia said. He said he had wanted the role since last April, before it was announced they were performing Shrek and it was still a rumor.
“He brings this energy to Shrek that is comedic and musical,” Mencia said. The role is challenging for him though, because while he tends to be laid back, Donkey is always running around.
He said it is different for him and really fun.
This is Mencia’s first time performing with the performance ensemble. He said he has seen two productions and has wanted to be involved, but none of the previous shows had been a good fit for him.
He has enjoyed meeting all of the new people and said he is very excited to perform.
Eriq Wade, a senior at Forest Hills High School, is also playing Donkey. This is his third year performing with the ensemble and he enjoyed it enough that he convinced his friend, Aahsihia Reed, to audition.
Being cast as Donkey was a surprise, but at the same time, Wade said he and the character are very similar.
“I never expected it...it made me happy,” Wade said.
He said he and Donkey have very similar energies, in fact, the parts of the show he finds challenging are scenes where Donkey has to be more subtle and he has to pull his energy in.
“Being able to be me on stage and not have to take a on whole new character” is one of Wade’s favorite things about being Donkey, he said.
He said being a part of the ensemble is an “eye-opener” for him because he sees how everybody is different and it pushes him to be better.
“You get to connect with different people and understand their personalities,” he said.
He is excited for people to see the show and said he is most excited that the chemistry of the group will take them to another level. He said their close friendships will be evident on stage.
Every hero needs a damsel in distress and Princess Fiona meets the bill. Mostly.
Stephanie Hurtado, a junior at Sun Valley High School, enjoyed performing in “Footloose” so much last year that she auditioned again this year. She said she was completely surprised when a friend told her she had been cast as Fiona.
The role was originated on Broadway by the actress Sutton Foster, who Hurtado said is one of her idols.
Hurtado said it can be stressful being a principal performer and Morgan Miller, who is also cast as Princess Fiona, has supported her through the entire process.
She said it has been “amazing” to see all the people from different areas come together to create the show.
Robinson encouraged people to come see the show. He said most people think of it as a children’s show, but it is more than that. He said children will love it, but the show also deals a lot with acceptance and about how what makes people different is what also makes them stronger.
Performances will be at 7:30 on February 14, 15, 21 and 22 and at 2:30 on February 15, 16, 22 and 23. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students and performances will be held in the CATA auditorium, 600 Brewer Drive in Monroe.
Tickets are available on www.carolinatix.org.
NOTE: Due to inclement weather, Shrek the Musical will now premiere on Thursday, February 20th at 7:30 pm. Additional shows will be: Friday 2/21 at 7:30pm, Saturday 2/22 at 2:30 and 7:30 pm, Sunday 2/23 at 2:30 and 7:30pm. Tickets for the rescheduled shows will be honored - more details to follow. You can continue to purchase tickets at www.carolinatix.org through 2/19.
Written by: Carolyn Steeves, Enquirer Journal reporter
Posted: Feb 06, 2014 by Deb Christensen