“SHREK: the Musical” coming to Ramsdell

June 10, 2014

MANISTEE – Everyone’s favorite upside-down fairytale comes to the historic Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee when West Shore Community College (WSCC) Performing Arts and Manistee Civic Players (MCP) presents “SHREK: the Musical,” a song and dance-filled stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film.

The production runs two fun-filled weekends, according to JoAnn Muma, MCP’s executive director, opening Fri., June 27 and playing that evening and Sat., June 28, Thur., July 3, and Sat., July 5, at 7:30 p.m., and Sun., June 29 and July 6, at 2 p.m.

The production re-creates the fantasy Kingdom of Far Far Away with many hilarious, irreverent twists. Instead of a knight riding a noble steed, the hero is Shrek, a swamp-dwelling ogre teamed up with a chatterbox donkey. And the princess? She’s the slightly temperamental Fiona.

After Shrek rescues Fiona from a dragon-guarded tower, the two fall in love before she reveals there’s more to her than meets the eye. Other fairytale misfits add surprises from a Gingerbread Man with an attitude to Three Blind Mice channeling their inner Dreamgirls, according to the production’s director, Dr. Rick Plummer.

This entertaining, family-friendly show features a terrific score, with 19 songs including “Travel Song” and “I’ve Think I Got You Beat.” The songs come from Jeanine Tesori, who wrote the music, and David Lindsay-Abaire, who wrote the book and lyrics, says musical director and WSCC Associate Professor of Music Ted Malt.

“SHREK: the Musical” also draws from a 1990 children’s book by famed New Yorker cartoonist William Steig. Like the first 2001 Shrek film, the musical stays true to Steig’s fractured fairytale vision where dragons are friendly, swamps are better than castles, and the true hero isn’t handsome or noble but a grouchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside ogre who is more or less content with himself and his life in a swamp, Plummer adds.

After “SHREK: the Musical” premiered in 2008, as the most expensive show ever produced on Broadway for its time, it played for more than a year and earned numerous Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations.

For the WSCC and MCP production, Lindsay Roberts-Umlauf choreographs, and Jaime Pepple is vocal director. Susan Barnard is costumer; Glenda Finner is properties mistress/designer; Amanda Kaatz is lighting designer; Alex Wolkow is sound designer; Mike Mikula is master carpenter; John Bailey is makeup designer; Emily Hartrum is stage manager; and Emma Plummer, Emily McKenna, and Marty Cupp are master painters. Plummer and John Bell are the scene designers.

MSU vocal major David Moul, from Hart, is a newcomer to the WSCC and MCP stage and is featured as Shrek.

The 30-member cast also features well-known area performers Michelle Kiessel as Fiona; Michael Britz as Donkey; Sean Gilbert as Pinocchio; and Cody Hodges as the comically “short”-tempered villain, Lord Farquaad.

The remainder of the cast includes such talented performers as Abbie Finner, as Teen Fiona and Dancer; Hannah Persson as Young Fiona; Liam Quinn as Young Shrek and Grumpy; Paul Garland, Topher Webb, and Ian Britz as the Three Little Pigs; Erin Wall and Caila Conklin as two of the Three Blind Mice; Nicole Ball plays the third Blind Mouse and is also featured as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the puppeteer/voice of Gingy, the Gingerbread Man. Wall, Garland, and Conklin are also seen in other key roles throughout the production.

Lorrell Pepple appears as both Mama Ogre and Mama Bear; Paul Purdy as Papa Bear and Dragon puppeteer; Scott Fransee as the cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf; Makenzie Reed as Peter Pan; Joseph Slivka as the White Rabbit and the Pied Piper; Gianna Stansell as Baby Bear; Margarette Arbogast as the Ugly Duckling; LeAnna Engwall as the Shoemaker’s Elf; Doris silver as the Wicked Witch and a Guard; Carolos Ortega as Thelonius and King Harold; Chloe Pepra as the Mad Hatter and Dancer; John Persson as the Captain and the Bishop; Carrie Kosla as Fiona/Ogress; and Sarah McCulley, Kate Smith, and Michelle Graves as Guards and Dancers.

“This is hands-down the single most talented cast I’ve ever assembled here in west Michigan, or anywhere, for that matter, in my 50 years of doing college-community theater,” says Plummer.

“With the combination of an incredibly talented cast and the finest pit orchestra I have ever worked with, Shrek and all the fairytale creatures will certainly come to life,” says Malt.

He adds, “The pit band consists of a mix of local and non-local musicians, traveling from as far north as Acadia and as far south as Muskegon.  I am very excited to see this production come together and guarantee that our audiences will leave in awe of the talent we have in West Michigan.”

Tickets can be purchased by calling MyNorth Tickets at 1-800-836-0717, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., or by ordering online, 24/7 at www.manisteecivicplayers.org.

The Ramsdell box office and phone line, (231) 723-9948, opens Wed., June 25, at 12 noon.

For additional information, email Plummer at rjplummer@westshore.edu.

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