The Breckenridge Backstage Theatre presents “Shrek the Musical” in a two-weekend run, opening Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge.
The show is a song- and dance-filled stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film “Shrek,” and instead of a knight riding a noble steed, the star of the irreverent fairytale is Shrek, a swamp-dwelling ogre, played by Backstage veteran TJ Hogle.
“He’s not necessarily the most attractive hero that there is, and he’s definitely unorthodox,” Hogle said of his character. “He doesn’t rescue the princess the same way everyone else would rescue the princess. He has lived a different life; he’s a loner, and he doesn’t really like being around people.”
It falls upon actor Tony Ilano’s loud-mouthed character of Donkey to bring Shrek out of his shell and socialize the reluctant hero.
“That’s what sets up their relationship, for Donkey and Shrek,” Hogle said. “Shrek is not enjoying being around anybody, and Donkey spends the entire show working on Shrek to loosen him up and become friends, which you finally see at the end of the show.”
“Donkey’s character — he’s super funny, comic relief,” Ilano said. “The relationship that he has with Shrek is interesting, to say the least, and I think it’s fun.”
Carolyn Lohr plays the role of Princess Fiona, and Damon Guerrasio assumes the persona of Lord Farquaad, which requires him to spend most of the show hobbling around the stage on his knees.
“It was a lot of fun fleshing out that character and figuring out why he would act certain ways and the physical challenge of dancing on your knees,” Guerrasio said. “Jessica (Belflower), our choreographer, came up with some really amazing, really fun stuff for me to do.”
“Shrek” fans will recognize all of the beloved characters from the film, including The Three Blind Mice, Gingy, Pinocchio and even a huge puppet version of Dragon.
“The plot line and characters will be totally recognizable,” Ilano said.
SCREEN TO STAGE
The show was a challenge to bring to stage for a number of reasons, the first being the far-flung locales of the actors, the majority of whom live in Summit County, with the rest, including most of the lead characters, traveling from Denver.
“We didn’t have our first group rehearsals until last Sunday, a week and a half ago; that was the first time that all of us got to meet each other, be in the same room together,” Hogle said. “The biggest challenge has been really that separation, the coming together as a cast for the first time so late in the rehearsal process.”
Guerrasio said one of his personal challenges, aside from the physically strenuous nature of his role, was trying to balance the Lord Farquaad made famous by the voice of John Lithgow in the film and the newer incarnations put to stage by the various actors who have played the character in the musical adaptation.
“I love the ‘Shrek’ movie, and I love John Lithgow’s version of Farquaad, and I wanted to bring that about,” Guerrasio said. “It seems like a lot of the performances, the versions of the musical that have been out, a lot of the actors kind of upended that character of this bloated, overdone Farquaad. I wanted to get it back a little bit but keep that new, fresh Lord Farquaad character that the musical brought about, a little bratty and Little Lord Fauntleroy. … It came out to what got more laughs.”
ADDING THE MUSIC
Hogle said the story is attractive to children and adults alike, and the music is very beautiful.
“For children, its appealing because it’s that fantasy of princess and prince charming and fairytale creatures,” he said. “There’s some underlying adult humor, nothing too serious, but there’s some adult jokes in there that I think kids might not really get.”
“The music is incredible; I love the music,” Guerrasio said. “Those songs really help explain where the character’s coming from. It rounds out the explanation of the character and the description of what every person’s role in the show is.”
Song themes range from a battle of flatulence between Shrek and Fiona to Farquaad’s totalitarian view of his kingdom of Duloc to a second-half song about where the little lord came from and his father.
“So you have a good back story with all the music, as well as all the characters that people know and love,” Guerrasio said.