July 24--As almost 50 children and teenagers crowded around the edge of the stage at McHale Performing Arts Center, Dan McDonald counted off: one, two, three... "I believe!"
It was the start of tech rehearsal for Junior Civic Theater's production of "Shrek: The Musical," which opens Friday. The cast was abuzz with anticipation, practicing a few dance routines while tech staff worked behind the scenes -- literally and figuratively -- synchronizing the show's lights and sound.
Sounds such as the almost perpetual flatulence the show's title character lets out.
Based on the animated feature film "Shrek," the musical stars an unlikely hero -- "a mixture of Mel Gibson in 'Braveheart' and Kermit the Frog," according to Cody Kopka, the 18-year-old recent graduate from Logansport High School who's bringing him to the McHale stage. He finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking donkey and a feisty princess who resists her rescue. The musical number "I'm a Believer" wraps the final scene and gave rise to the cast's energizing mantra.
McDonald, who with Chris Pearcy is directing the production, says the play is chock-full of jokes that children will get and some that will fly right over their heads.
"Like the old cartoons," McDonald said, "the humor is written for all audiences. ... There's some really complex humor that the adults will get, that's appropriate."
Not to mention the handful of running gags, or the lines and snippets of music borrowed from other plays.
It's all tied together by the idea that "it's OK to be different," McDonald said.
And for good reason. The characters span a range of fairy-tale misfits, like the Three Little Pigs and their nemesis the Big Bad Wolf, or Goldilocks and the unfortunate bears whose house she invaded.
Those characters are a chance for younger cast members to dip their toes in the JCT waters. Cast members range from kindergarteners to graduating high school seniors, and some of the youngest children are glad to dress up and appear on stage without having to memorize any lines.
Sibling duo Molly, 4, and Cameron Hunnicutt, 7, rank among the cast's youngest actors and are first-timers to JCT. Their mother, Samantha Hunnicutt, said her stints in a few JCT shows and Logansport High School productions had inspired the children to try out.
"They've had a lot of fun all summer, practicing and getting ready for it," Hunnicutt said.
In her young voice, Molly confided she wasn't sure how she was going to play her part. "We don't have a ginger house," she said, alluding to the fairy tale's gingerbread house where the evil witch lived.
Still, she and Cameron are excited for opening night, they said.
What really excites McDonald is the bundle of lighting equipment he gets to play with.
Although he's spent 13 years directing high school plays at Pioneer High School in Royal Center, he's never been involved with Junior Civic Theater before. And it's his first time directing any production at McHale Performing Arts Center.
"There's a lot more on the technical side that's available to me at McHale," McDonald said. "Lighting. We've got some really, really nice lighting effects that are going to make a real impact in the show."
Pearcy, who's also in his first production with JCT, said he's impressed with the talent the children have displayed, too, and how they've pulled off the comedic lines -- something he said is often one of the most challenging aspects of theater.
"It's coming together quite nicely," he said.
"Shrek: The Musical" opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with additional performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. All performances will take place at McHale Performing Arts Center, 1 Berry Lane in Logansport. Tickets are $10 for adults or $8 for students. For more information, call 574-732-1384.
Reach Sarah Einselen at email@example.com or 574-732-5151.
If you go: WHAT: "Shrek: The Musical" performed by Logansport Junior Civic Theater WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday WHERE: McHale Performing Arts Center, 1 Berry Lane in Logansport COST: $10 for adults or $8 for students INFO: Call 574-732-1384 Cast members Cody Kopka, Victor Boggs, Megan Mannering, Chandler Swartzell, Carly Geisler, Jacob Hoover, April Pickens, Sophia Rozzi, John Deforge, Brianna Ulery, Derek Simms, Noel Widup, Blake Martin, Lucas Pickens, Sal Scagnoli, Ian Snoeberger, Emma Bowen, Anna Brown, Kayla Brandt, Ali Williams, Elijah Bowen, Emma Ehle, Tiffany Liberto, Derek Simms, Mariah Lachance, Chloe Crozier, Emily Harmon, Alanna Echols, Alex Shank, Sarah Pawlowski, Amelia Bault, Rebecca Pawlowski, Jeremy Gross, Lena Dickerson, Anastasia Scott, John Ulery, Luke Ulery, Sammie Durr, Molly Hunnicutt, Cameron Hunnicutt, Emily Pawlowski, Diana Pearson, Jack Lee, Elijah Bault, Layla Powell, Gracie Kitchell, Kaitlin Weldy, Ben Geisler, Emma Wardle, Alex Geisler and Aiden Snoeberger
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