BROWNSTOWN — Students in this year’s Brownstown Central High School choir department musical remember watching the DreamWorks Animation movie “Shrek” when they were younger.
The first of four computer-animated films was released in 2001, followed by the sequel in 2004, the third movie in 2007 and “Shrek Forever After” in 2010.
A stage musical version premiered in 2008 on Broadway, and some of the students are familiar with that, too.
When they learned their school was going to do the production this year, they were “ogrely” excited.
“I’ve loved ‘Shrek’ since I was little, and I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Shrek: The Musical,’ as well, so I was like, ‘This is a good change of pace. I like it,’” said junior Landon Whitson, who plays the lead role of Shrek in the BCHS show.
Classmate James Wilson, who plays Shrek’s sidekick and best friend, Donkey, said he absolutely wanted to audition for the musical once he learned what it was going to be.
“‘Shrek’ is a funny movie. It probably impacted the animation world,” he said. “I think that helps a lot, especially seeing ‘Shrek: The Musical’ along with it. It is really just a big step for us.”
Senior Maddie Gibson, who plays Princess Fiona, said she grew up on “Shrek.”
“I loved the ‘Shrek’ movies,” she said. “I have been in musical for four years, and I have loved it ever since I was coming to the musicals, and so when they said they were doing ‘Shrek,’ I was really excited, and I wanted Fiona very badly.”
Stephanie Brock, co-director of the show with Alisha Griffin, said the musical version of “Shrek” has only been available to schools for a few years, so she was glad to be able to bring it to the BCHS auditorium stage for the first time.
“I figured it would appeal to this generation because these kids probably grew up watching it. That was a selling point,” Brock said. “I knew the story, I had read the script, I knew it would appeal to multiple generations, so that was another reason that I thought it’s time to do something like that.”
The show will be staged at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10.
To get the public excited about the show, the cast participated in a Shrek Character Breakfast on Feb. 25 in the BCHS cafeteria. The tickets included breakfast, a gift and a photo opportunity with characters from the musical.
Today, the cast will be busy presenting hourlong matinees for Brownstown Elementary School, Brownstown Central Middle School, Brownstown Central High School and Lutheran Central School students, and some nursing home residents are coming to the school to watch, too.
“We’re doing more than we’ve ever done as far as a matinee,” Brock said. “We had so many people show interest to want to come to a matinee, so we’re trying to accommodate. It will be a full day for the kids with the morning and afternoon matinees, but that’s something a little extra.”
For the shows Thursday, Friday and Sunday, souvenirs will be sold in the auditorium lobby. That will include Shrek ears, flower halos, flower bouquets and candy, and proceeds will benefit the BCHS choir department.
“We’ve got a couple of surprises that I can’t give away. You have to come to the show,” Brock said, smiling. “We’re saving a few surprises.”
Brock said it also was great to have people from the school corporation and community help, too.
BES art teacher Mendy Stahl had students complete Shrek art projects that were used as centerpieces at the Character Breakfast and will be on display at the shows, BCHS art students made a large S for the lobby, BCHS engineering students used a three-dimensional machine to make some onstage props and Shrek’s ears and adult volunteers constructed the castle backdrop.
“We’ve been trying to pull in so many different groups and their talents and skills to put together the production,” Brock said. “They have all worked so hard to make it, so great volunteers. We are so, so blessed to have these people, and they are passionate about helping the program for the kids.”
Brock praised the cast, too. Several students are playing multiple roles, including two with as many as six characters and costume changes.
“We’re oozing with talent right now, which is wonderful, male and female,” she said. “They are spectacular. I would put them up against any production anywhere. They take it serious. They are a class act. It has been wonderful. I just feel very privileged and blessed to have these kids and to be able to do it.”
Whitson said he likes playing the role of Shrek, a bad-tempered but goodhearted ogre who begrudgingly accepts a quest to rescue a princess, resulting in him finding friends and going on many subsequent adventures in a fairy tale world.
Having acted since he was in sixth grade, playing Shrek is definitely a bucket list role, he said.
“He’s someone who has a lot of charm to him, but obviously, being what he is, he’s very much rejected by society as a whole,” Whitson said. “Once you start — no pun intended — revealing those layers, you see that he actually has a good heart. It’s just his exterior makes it hard to believe.”
Wilson said Donkey matches him and his personality.
“It just kind of comes natural to me in a way,” he said. “I’m more of an upbeat kind of guy, more of a charismatic guy, I guess.”
Growing up watching the movie made Gibson really love Fiona, and then when she watched the musical version on Netflix, she loved the way actress Sutton Foster played the role.
“I just really love her attitude, and I really wanted to bring that to here in a way,” Gibson said. “I definitely think she is a sassy little spitfire. I love her. She’s not your average princess. She tries to be, but once she meets Shrek and Donkey, she knows that she’s not the perfect fairy tale princess that she wants to be, but it’s OK. She learns through Shrek and Donkey that being different is fine.”
The students have enjoyed working together and are ready to present the musical to audiences.
“I like all of the cast, really,” Wilson said. “I think since most of the cast is pretty much incredibly close or best friends altogether, this has not just made us closer together, but also, we already got along before this, so it was already just puzzle pieces.”
Whitson is excited to present Shrek’s wide variety of emotions and actions.
“I’ve never played a character who has been this versatile,” he said. “I get to be disgusting. I get to be angry. I get to be emotional, happy. It’s a great little combination.”
Gibson said she loves all of the cast members, too, and since it’s her senior year, she’s ready to go out with a bang.
“I was so glad we got to do something so modern and to show the audience we can do anything because we’ve done older ones for the past few years,” she said. “To finally do a show that’s very modern and everyone knows, it’s just so exciting, and I’m so thrilled for everyone to see it.”
If you go
What: Brownstown Central High School choir department’s production of “Shrek: The Musical”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Auditorium at Brownstown Central High School, 500 N. Elm St., Brownstown
Tickets: $10 (patrons kindergarten and older or anyone occupying a seat must have a ticket); general admission tickets available at The Peoples Bank or Family Drug in Brownstown; reserved tickets available by calling 812-358-3453
Directors: Stephanie Brock and Alisha Griffin
Cast: Landon Whitson, Maddie Gibson, James Wilson, Logan Geswein, Alexzandera Camp, Emmy Barnes, Skylen Schulz, Emma Hughbanks, Ethan Wheeles, Ava Lee, Jenna Bracamonte, Quincy Weddell, Ava Sunderman, Silas Norman, Keetan Burcham-Jones, Emma DeShong, Rachel Louden, Shayla Sweany, Addi Osborne, Kristen Combs, Alaina Lee, Lexi Wheeles, Nadiya Bowman, Carmen Herzner, Lilly Brazzell, Brynn Burton, Alli Dillard, Maggie Banister, Reece Osborne, Jairdyn Kiser, Cash Zumhingst