At Minot State University Summer Theatre, laughter starts as soon as the title is given: "Shrek the Musical." Just released from its Broadway contract run last month, "Shrek" running Tuesday, June 11, through Sunday, June 16, has a cast of 100, 27 of whom will be appearing in Minot. The well-known characters include Fiona, Donkey and Lord Farquaad, along with as many fairy tale folk as the author David Lindsay-Abaire could cram in.
"Oh, they're double- and triple-cast," said director Chad Gifford. "Only Ryan Haider (as Shrek), Daniel Johnson (as Donkey), Brittany Armstrong (Fiona) and Brett Olson (the short-tempered villain Farquaad) have just one role. Even Dragon, played by Emily Taylor, has seven or eight different actors moving it around the stage."
Gifford was drawn to the show when he read the script and found so many parts, which is especially important for summer theater, when so many actors turn out.
Lord Farquaad, played by Brett Olson, performs during a recent rehearsal for MSU Summer Theatre’s production of “Shrek the Musical.”
"Every person gets a great part in this," he said. "It's got every gag in the movie, and then some.
"There are a lot of technical challenges, as you can imagine. But everyone in the cast has taken on some part in that - making Farquaard's legs, for instance. Brett has to spend the entire play on his knees, you know. They're all using every skill they have, and that's one of the things that most appeals to me about community theater - that everyone contributes something."
Gifford designed the set, but he said Olson made it happen. It's a split set, one side forest, the other castle, with special effects abounding in lighting and sound.
"We're gonna make some magic out there," Gifford said. "We're not trying to make the movie here. But we do hope to surprise and entertain you."
Jeri Langemo, long connected with the Summer Theater, is the music director, and Laurel Collins the choreographer. There are 19 original musical numbers, none of which is in the movie, but all of which are toe-tappers, from "How Big a Man Am I" by Farquaad to a Barry White-esque ballad from Donkey when he's trying to get Shrek and Fiona together.
Costuming has been an interesting challenge as well, because the play has more backstory than the movies, including two of Gifford's children as Child Shrek (Camden) and Child Fiona (Keely). There are two more Fionas - Collins as a teenaged one, and Michaela Burns as the Young Fiona. Burns is also one of the summer interns working with MSU theater department this year.
Then there's the makeup, including a special "Ogre Green" commercially developed for actors playing Shrek.
Reservations are encouraged by calling 858-3228. Ticket prices are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, $5 for children 12 and under and $3 for MSU faculty, staff and students with current IDs. Military night, underwritten by Northern Tier FCU, offers a discount on Sunday, June 16, with current ID. Consider bringing blankets, warm jackets and bug spray depending on the weather. In the event of rain, tickets will only be refunded if show is cancelled within the first half-hour of the show.