Jonesborough Repertory Theatre presents "Shrek the Musical" with performances on Aug. 22 through Sept. 15 on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
From reconstructing parts of the theater to custom-made costumes and an ensemble tap number, the members of the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre are pulling out all the stops for their new show, “Shrek the Musical.”
The musical, based off the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film, is a funny tale about a green ogre named Shrek who sets out to rescue Princess Fiona from a tower she is being held in, with the help from an unexpected sidekick, Donkey. Throughout the two act show, filled with lots of dancing, musical numbers and laughs, the trio encounters classic fairy tale characters, as well as the evil Lord Farquaad, on their journey.
Jennifer Schmidt, musical director for the show, said the musical –– produced in cooperation with MTI-Music Theatre International –– was a big undertaking for the cast and crew of JRT.
“I was part of the reading committee for the 2013-14 season,” Schmidt said. “In doing our research, we discovered that ‘Shrek the Musical’ ... had just been made available for ... amateur theaters. We were very excited because we all love the movie. Someone had seen it on Broadway and ... so we just decided to apply for the rights and we’re actually the first in the area to get the rights.”
She said initially they had plans to use the McKinney Cultural Arts Center for the production, but since the building is still under construction, they had to figure out a way to make the show work in the JRT building.
“Our theater is a very small theater and so ... what we’ve done is kind of rethink the way we do productions here, which is a great thing,” Schmidt said. “We’ve never done this before. We’re actually using drops in the theater and our tech team just devised their own ... technology. They’ve come up with their own method of making this work in our theater. We actually have six drops that we’re using throughout the show, which is really amazing for us.”
The show’s director, J.J. Jeffers, also helped design the drops, and Hampton Printing, a company JRT has been using for many years, printed the drops for the production.
Schmidt said when the musical was on Broadway, it was originally the most expensive musical because of costuming and special effects, so they had to figure out the most important element of the show to focus on with their budget.
“We decided to focus on the characters, which are so important, and put our emphasis into the costuming,” she said. “We did have those made in New York. They’re building it for us. All of these costumes are brand new and that’s one reason we’re still waiting on some of them because no one else has used them. They are absolutely awesome. They’re Broadway quality and beyond.
“In ‘Shrek’, you have to have a lot of special effects. One of our characters spends the whole show on his knees and he has to have fake legs. The actor playing that part is actually the tallest actor in the show.”
Schmidt said with the intricate costumes, the cast enlisted the help and makeup training from their makeup artist, Derek Smithpeters, to give the audience a truly authentic visionary component. She said besides the principal actors in show, the rest of the 30-plus member cast –– each taking on at least three characters in the production –– do their own makeup. She said recently the attic space was cleaned out and transformed into the men’s dressing room in order to turn the men’s old dressing room into a makeup room.
The cast also plays a big role in moving pieces on the set, as well as helping with other character’s massive costumes.
“They work just beautifully together,” Schmidt said. “They’re wonderful. They help each other all the time. If they need to help move set pieces and all those kind of things, they do it. The choreography ... backstage is just as complicated as what you see on stage. The choreography is amazing in this show and we’ve taught people that really had very little tap experience how to tap. We’ve been ... rehearsing probably three to four nights a week.”
The show will run at Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, 1251?2 W. Main St., Jonesborough, through Sept. 15, with shows scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2.
Schmidt said the cast will also be performing for local schoolchildren on Sept. 4 and 11. Tickets for the show are $12 for senior citizens and students and $14 for adults, and can be purchased online at www.jonesboroughtheatre.com or by calling the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center at 753-1010.
“There’s been a lot of anticipation because it’s the biggest show we’ve ever done in Jonesborough. It’s the biggest show we’ve ever tried to stage in this theater. It’s also a regional premiere, so there’s just a lot of excitement out there ... for that,” she said. “The show is obviously a funny show. The music’s awesome, but most importantly it has a great message. We just felt like ... it would appeal to families and it was a very important message ... specifically for children to hear — that what makes you special makes you strong. You’re special the way you are.”