PHILADELPHIA — If you talk to students here, the Land of Far, Far Away, the home of Shrek and his sidekicks, is being brought to life quite convincingly.
That transformation at Indian River Central School involves more than a 15-foot-long dragon and rented costumes.
“It’s amazing to see how the characters are coming to life, with the voices and the physicalities,” said senior Noah R. LaClair, who plays Donkey. “It’s awe-inspiring.”
Students have been rehearsing since January to stage “Shrek the Musical,” which will be presented for three shows Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19.
The show, with music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, ran on Broadway from 2008 until 2010. It is based on the 2001 Oscar-winning animated film in which an unseemly ogre shows up to rescue a feisty princess.
Senior Tristan E.C. Sitzes plays Shrek.
“I was first drawn to it because of how original the story was,” said Mr. Sitzes, who recalled watching his family’s copy of the film on video as a youngster.
“It had always been the prince saves the princess, but for once, the outcast actually wins,” he said.
Junior Tyler E. Heflin, who plays Princess Fiona, also recalls watching the film as a child. An element of the Fiona character was especially attractive for her, she said.
“It’s this girl who is feisty and fearless,” she said. “She kind of takes her future into her own hands after she’s rescued.”
The music in the show, Miss Heflin said, is “fun and upbeat.”
“But there are some songs that are very sentimental that will get you to feel the characters’ emotion,” she said. “You’ll be locked into the story, wanting to know what’s going to come next.”
Helping to move things along is an approximately 15-foot dragon, created by district art teacher Kazuhisa Tsuji.
“It’s amazing. Even its eyelashes move and its eyes change color,” Miss Heflin said.
Charles R. Heck, producer and K-12 music coordinator at Indian River Central, said “Shrek” continues the string of quality productions at the school, the result of the students’ hard work. For example, he noted that Mr. Sitzes, (Shrek), had a small role in last year’s show, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“What he was able to do between last year and this year is just incredible,” Mr. Heck said. “He stepped up to the plate. His character is top-notch.”
Such transformation, he said, is rewarding to see.
“We work a lot on how to get the kids to be comfortable on stage,” Mr. Heck said. “We work on their stage presence, their presentation and how to develop their particular character. It’s not just, ‘Here are some lines. Go say them.’ They have to know what their lines are about and what the character is trying to portray.”
Musicals at Indian River traditionally have a team of co-directors. This year, Russell J. Faunce, retired director of choral and vocal music at Watertown High School, has joined the team as musical director. In 2014, Mr. Faunce directed and produced “Shrek” at WHS.
Mr. Heck has performed in the pit band for nearly 30 WHS musicals under the direction of Mr. Faunce. When an opening for music director opened at IRCS for its spring production, Mr. Heck said he thought of Mr. Faunce to fill the post.
“I knew that he could walk in and do a good job,” Mr. Heck said. “We’re fortunate to be able to have him. It’s working out very well.”
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The main cast of “Shrek” at Indian River central School:
Tristan Sitzes as Shrek, Tyler Heflin as Princess Fiona, Mackenzie Moore as young Fiona/Duloc, Briley Cullum as teen Fiona/Duloc, Noah LaClair as Donkey, Sheldon Bush as Lord Farquaad, Hannah Bajakian as Dragon, Bannon Montgomery as Pinocchio, Maria Miller as Gingy, Tyrek Taper Smith as Big Bad Wolf and Mary Goff, Gabby Anderson and Maria Inserra as blind mice.
Also, Kyerra Stanley, Ashley Torres and Netanya Archibald as the Three Little Pigs, Chelsea Stone as White Rabbit, Aleisha Cooke as Fairy God Mother, Amanda Gydesen as Peter Pan, Daisey Hecker as the Wicked Witch, Alyssa Sands as Sugar Plum Fairy, and Emily Goodrich as the Ugly Duckling.
Also, Justin Nadal as Papa Bear/ogre dad, Marisa Domeyer as Mama Bear/ogre mom, Andrew Grobe as Baby Bear/young ogre, Grace Felicia as Queen Lillian, Keaton Landerman as the Mad Hatter/King Harold, and Misty Rodriguez as Humpty Dumpty.
And, Daisy Hecker as an elf, Abigail Welch as Little Red Riding Hood, Jasmine Thorpe as Puss in Boots, Amiere Bell as a greeter, Keaton Landerman as the bishop, Thelonius and the Pied Piper, and Kyle Fuller, Jake Hanvy and Amiere Bell as guards.