Director Sherry Wade couldn't believe her luck.
Wade, who had directed three summer musicals for Elkhorn Community Theatre, was looking for another family friendly show but thinking she'd like something more contemporary than “Cinderella” or “Annie.”
Then she noticed that the rights to “Shrek the Musical” were coming available to amateur groups last October. The story of an ogre who rescues a princess (with the help of a blabby donkey) is widely popular.
No Nebraska troupe had yet staged the show, a 2009 best-musical Tony nominee. The theater's board gave Wade a thumbs-up, and the result opens Thursday night for a one-weekend run at Elkhorn High School.
“Everyone loves 'Shrek' — it's such a good show,” Wade said. “It's family friendly, and kids want to see it.”
Kids also want to be in it. The cast of nearly 50 includes a 16-member kids' ensemble, and Wade expanded the list of fairy-tale characters in the show to accommodate them. She cast lots of students from Elkhorn Public Schools, where she teaches speech and theater.
Once she had the rights, the challenges were daunting. Wade had never seen the musical version of the popular movie, so staging and choreography are original. Scenery, costumes, makeup and props all posed special demands. Pinocchio's nose, for example, must grow onstage.
Help came from Midland College in Fremont, Neb., and area costume shops, along with dozens of parents who pitched in to sew and build scenery.
The sets include forest scenes, a barn, a cave, Princess Fiona's tower, the dragon's keep, a torture chamber, Shrek's swamp home and a rope bridge that extends over the orchestra pit. The theater rented several painted backdrops.
“The biggest challenge was the dragon, getting it built and assembled,” Wade said. “But it's all going well.”
“Shrek the Musical” is the theater's 16th summer musical and its first Nebraska premiere.
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