‘Shrek’ wows sell-out crowds

Seniors+Taylor+Rowell+%28left%29+and+Ethan+Hatcher+%28right%29+stare+out+into+a+sold-out+crowd+as+they+begin+their+journey+to+save+Princess+Fiona%2C+played+by+junior+Camille+Edwards%2C+from+a+fierce%2C+fire-breathing+dragon%2C+junior+Abby+Feltner.+

Steve Clark

Seniors Taylor Rowell (left) and Ethan Hatcher (right) stare out into a sold-out crowd as they begin their journey to save Princess Fiona, played by junior Camille Edwards, from a fierce, fire-breathing dragon, junior Abby Feltner.

Ryan Phillips, Staff Writer

After months of rehearsing, senior Ethan Hatcher said he was ready to make his grand entrance as Shrek in the Drama Department’s  fall production of “Shrek: The Musical.”

“I was a little nervous about my entrance at the beginning of the play,” Hatcher said. “I knew I had to make a big impression on the audience to start the show off right.” Hatcher did just that by literally bursting out of his little shack onstage and singing about how much he loved solitary life in his swamp. When members of the audience first saw the darkened silhouette of Shrek appear against the background, they immediately started clapping, something that occurred numerous times throughout the play.

During the three evening shows on Nov. 13, 14, and 16 and the matinee on Nov. 17, adults and children alike were bursting out laughing at several of the musical’s numerous comic scenes.

Among the crowd favorites were, of course, the synthetic farts and hair-raising roars aptly placed for optimal audience reaction, emanating from Shrek, and later on, Princess Fiona. Even though some cast members confessed that those sounds became a little obnoxious after hearing them over and over since rehearsals began Aug. 5, they still brought smiles to their faces.

“There was only really one rehearsal that we timed out all of the farts and burps and it was hilarious,” senior Taylor Rowell said. “For one of the farts, I had to make it myself with my hands.”

After doing more traditional Broadway shows for the last few years, Drama teacher and director David Spearman said he thought it was time for a change.

“It had been a while since we had done a family show,” Spearman said. “I also wanted to challenge the cast because we have never done a show with fairy tale creatures before.”

The production certainly challenged junior Abby Feltner, who played the Dragon.  Feltner had to sing, dance, move, and slide all around the stage while controlling the head of a 24-foot-long dragon with a 12-foot wingspan.

“I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to sing and dance well at the same time,” said Feltner about her first major role in a musical. “Even though I never got comfortable with it, I still had a lot of fun controlling the dragon.”   What had the audience mesmerized was Feltner’s strong, throaty voice that carried throughout the Willie Duke Auditorium and prompted spontaneous applause at the end of her scene.  Feltner, who was the first runner-up in the 2013 Miss Starr’s Mill Pageant, appeared in a couple other minor roles in the musical.

Donkey, Shrek’s traveling companion, was played by Rowell, and he nailed Eddie Murphy’s role from the DreamWorks 2001 movie “Shrek”, much to the audience’s delight. He also added in some of his favorite lines from the movie that were not in the musical’s original script.

“I used to watch ‘Shrek’ a lot when I was a kid and could do a really good impression of Donkey,” Rowell said. “I loved working with the Dragon and being able to make so many improvisations throughout the play.” One of the crowd’s favorites ad libs was when Rowell added, “And in the morning, we’re makin’ waffles!” as he and Shrek head toward the swamp.

Senior Jonah Wagoner also gave an incredible performance as the short in stature but grand in personality Lord Farquaad.

“Developing the character of Lord Farquaad basically consisted of me playing around with a line to achieve maximum comedic effect,” Wagoner said. “I loved singing ‘What’s Up Duloc’ because it had such flashy choreography and costumes.”

In order to appear shorter, Wagner had to be on his knees when onstage and used what he called “industrial strength” knee pads to keep his knees from hurting.

“They were padded really well so my knees didn’t hurt too much, but moving around the stage was definitely a challenge.”

Because some actors said they connected on a deeper level with their characters, their performances were so genuine that audience members became more attached to the characters.

“I found the character of Princess Fiona to be similar to me,” junior Camille Edwards said.  “I wanted to add my own interpretation to enhance her character development throughout the play.”

Edwards said she felt the same way Princess Fiona did during the play when she is waiting for something to come along and sweep her off her feet and put a pleasant surprise into her life.

The enjoyment of the actors onstage was matched by audience members who flocked to three of four sold-out performances. They were treated to almost two and a half hours of singing and dancing not only from the main characters but also from a talented ensemble cast of fairy tale creatures, blind mice, and citizens of Duloc.

The sets were always immaculate and complex, ranging from Lord Farquaad’s immense castle to Shrek’s lowly home in the swamp.

The onstage cast was supported by a 23-member pit orchestra, directed by Chorus teacher Dr. John Odom, backstage. With every musical number or scene transition, the orchestra provided the perfect background to enhance what was transpiring onstage.

“It was definitely difficult to coordinate with what was happening onstage,” Odom said. “But with cues coming from Zach Stutts, the production’s music director, through a headset, it made things easier. And because my back was always turned, I never got to see the show.”

Even though Odom was unable to see one of the four incredible performances, hundreds of student and community audience members saw a high-caliber show be put on by a talented group of young and aspiring actors.