News Column

Muddy intentions? Not from 'Shrek'

May 16, 2014

By Richard Carter, Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas

May 16--From horrible to lovable, ogres have come a long way over the years.

The greatest ogre love story of them all will be told on the Wichita Theatre stage in "Shrek the Musical," which will play at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays from May 24 to June 21.

The film and stage musical are similar -- the characters and story are the same -- but the animated tale had to be reworked within the confines of a live stage show, said director Chance Harmon.

"The movie was animated, and there is a lot you can do with animation," Harmon said. "We have to do it through songs and dance and costumes and sets. The songs are not the same, except for at the end. At the grand finale, we sing 'I'm a Believer.'"

Harmon added that this is a production for all ages.

"The kids will get the kid stuff, and the adults will have fun getting the adult stuff," he said. "There is something for everyone."

Harmon said he prefers the musical because of the costumes, songs (complete with choreography by Stephanie Medenwaldt) and special effects, and he's happy with his cast of about 30 that ranges in age from 12 to their late 40s.

Lead roles will be performed by Jim Hall as Shrek, Lara Williams as Fiona, Chris Jarvis as Lord Farquaad and Seigen Walker as Donkey.

Hall just played Kerchak in "Tarzan: The Musical." Before that, he had been on a 20-year hiatus from the stage.

The network engineer at Midwestern State University said, "The last show I did was '110 in the Shade' at Vernon College to pick up some extra classes. That one did me for theater for a while. It was outside, and we did make it rain."

Hall's children convinced him that he was Shrek and that he needed to play the beloved ogre.

"I am sort of a recluse, and I like things the way I want them to be. I am sort of finicky," he said with a laugh.

Harmon added, "For years and years, his children had performed at the theater, and he watched and he watched and he watched. His son, Cameron, convinced him to try out for 'Tarzan,' and he got the bug. He always let his kids shine, and now, finally, it's his turn."

Hall is adjusting to the costuming, which is difficult. Shrek features a full-head prosthetic and a full-facial, glue-on piece.

"Shrek" has the best songs, Williams said. Hall's favorite is "Build a Wall."

Speaking of being somewhat typecast, Williams said only one role was for her in "Shrek" -- Princess Fiona. Based on her past character performances at the theater, Williams really does love playing Sutton Foster roles.

"I'm not a Disney princess, whatsoever," she said. "I, as a person, would never fit that mold. Fiona is all of them in one, and she's not ashamed of that. She's right there in your face with it and wears it on her sleeve. I have an inner Fiona," she said, laughing.

One of the great things about the musical, Harmon added, is it provides more back story for Fiona and Donkey.

Theater regulars will know Walker, who plays Donkey, as the Ghost of Christmas Present in "A Christmas Carol" and Officer Krupke in "West Side Story."

"I love Donkey," Walker said. "He's a lot of fun, and he's such a kid. I love that about him. He's just trying to be loyal to who he wants to be his best friend."

Walker will play the hilarious character standing up, with hooves on his hands.

"The costumers had their work cut out for them," Harmon said. "There are so many characters, all the fairy tale characters, and there's so much between the makeup and the costumes. It's going to be worth it, and the audience will really love it.

The tallest cast member, 6-foot-4-inch Chris Jarvis, who is choir director at Wichita Falls High School, is the music director and plays its shortest character, the evil Lord Farquaad.

Jarvis, who portrayed Tony in the Wichita Theatre's most recent production of "West Side Story," plays the character on his knees. "When it was offered to me," he said, "I really wanted to do it."

"Everyone loves a good love story," Harmon said. "They love Donkey, and they even love Lord Farquaad, the evil guy who is so funny. There's nothing like live theater."


(c)2014 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)

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Source: Wichita Falls Times Record News (TX)

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