By Bailey McGuinn
For the past five years, the Mayo Performing Arts Center has brought Broadway-quality youth productions to Morristown, raising the bar every spring.
With Shrek the Musical, MPAC aims to nudge that bar upward once again.
From June 1-3, 2018, area theater-goers will be treated to professional-caliber sets, prosthetics, and makeup; a 16-piece orchestra; custom wigs designed by Derek Alfano, and costumes and puppetry from 3-D Theatricals.
The Tony Award-winning musical is based on the family favorite Dreamworks film, taking the audience on a comedic journey with Shrek, Donkey and Fiona.
Directed and choreographed by Cathy Roy, with musical direction from Conductor Charles Santoro, the show will strive to top last year’s West Side Story.
Starring as Shrek is Jason Sofge, whose credits include the Metropolitan Opera and The Soho Playhouse.
Troy Valjean Rucker, cast as Donkey, has performed off-Broadway, regionally, and on European and national tours. The true surprise, however, is 16-year-old Bernards High School sophomore Nicole Streger, in the leading-lady role of Fiona.
Performing alongside a principal cast twice your age may sound daunting, but after two MPAC spring productions, plus school musicals and summers at the Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Conservatory, Streger feels she is up to the challenge.
“This is my favorite time of the year, it’s like the best thing to look forward to,” said Streger.
“The productions always turn out so amazing and the people involved are just so awesome. Being the youngest lead in this show has been pretty awesome. I’ve gotten to learn so much from the other leads who have so much experience behind them.”
Going full-out as Fiona is fun for Streger.
“I think my favorite part of playing Fiona is how quirky she is, because I’m a pretty quirky person and I’ve gotten to express a lot of those goofy sides of myself onstage that sometimes in a public setting are not normally accepted,” she said.
The hardest part is “coming to terms with the ogre aspect of her, and getting comfortable playing the same character in such a different façade towards the end of the show,” Streger said.
Morristown High School freshmen Carigan McGuinn, Maya Slaughter, Will Delargey and Noah Richardson will appear in the ensemble. And MHS Theatre’s student board president, Topher Bashant, takes on his second MPAC Mainstage production as the Pied Piper.
The production also features nine younger performers in the “junior ensemble,” a Mainstage element missing at MPAC since Hairspray in 2014.
Also new: A plethora of puppets. Dragons and gingerbread cookies create magical characters all their own. Well, with a little help from quite a few people behind their movements and voices.
“My favorite part of playing Gingy is honestly the challenge of it,” said Abigail Harvey, who plays a lovable, energetic gingerbread puppet.
“Learning to use the puppet correctly has proven to be a difficult but rewarding learning experience. Having never worked with a puppet like this before, I found the experience similar to learning to play an instrument, with different moving parts that must come together to create one solid performance,” Harvey said.
Tickets for this weekend’s Shrek-tacular are $20-$30. Showtimes:
- FRIDAY, JUNE 1 at 7:30 PM
- SATURDAY, JUNE 2 at 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM
- SUNDAY, JUNE 3 at 2:00 PM
Bailey McGuinn is a senior at Morristown High School. She will attend the University of Virginia this fall.