The PA Fine Arts Department presents: “Shrek The Musical!”

Gabi Altinok, Staff Writer

After two years of uncertainty, the PA Fine Arts Department is back, and it didn’t come empty-handed. Presented by the theater and chorus students, Shrek The Musical was the production to make up for the lost time.

After countless hours of auditions, rehearsals, and set preparation, the anticipation for the musical was nothing short of intense, and the cast and crew definitely felt it.

With COVID making things up in the air, theater teacher Julieta Grey says, “We had a whole crew of newbies that hadn’t worked an actual theater show, so it was a lot of training,” thus making it a definite challenge when directing such a tech-heavy play with almost 100 new faces to train.

As the director of the show, especially in terms of tech, Grey loves the experience even in these times of hardship and has great appreciation for all of the students working to do makeup, costumes, set pieces, and even more. “It’s not only people on the stage, there’s also a crew and we have about 100 kids working behind the scenes, doing sets, kids volunteering during classroom time, and we have a lot of artists doing their things,” says Grey. 

Courtesy of Gabi Altinok.

After the Sister Act show was put on in 2020, the PA theater department had been put under a substantial amount of financial pressure. “We only got to go on for one night, and we didn’t get to make money off of the tickets from that. So, we lost a lot of money that year,” recalls chorus teacher Katherine Davis, another director of the show. 

Well, Shrek came in and put any financial worries to rest. The musical brought enough traction to fill up the entire auditorium, with tickets close to selling out. The thousands in debt that haunted the theater department is only half the amount of money that they had made in profit this year, and in addition, they still had the hand-made props to sell-off. 

An excited junior Hailey Brown, cast as Lord Farquaad, wasn’t initially nervous when anticipating the show, but after she had been challenged with a broken ankle from playing travel volleyball, it seems there were some difficulties to work around. “It’s perfect that I act on my knees, so one crisis averted, but at the same time there [were] some modifications,” said Brown.

Brown felt that playing such a short, humorous character with so many emotions was challenging, yet exciting. Despite a clear height difference, Brown still perfectly executed the funny, short character that is Lord Farquaad.

Having been a part of musicals since sixth grade, operating with a large cast is nothing new to Brown. However, what is new is the limited number of cast members they have to work with: “We have a smaller group [of actors] this year than what I have normally experienced before,” said Brown.

The cast this year was not only made up of students but also the Boyds who had stepped in to contribute to the show as actors. This includes band teacher John Boyd and English teacher Kelly Boyd who both agreed to fill the role of Shrek’s parents, with Kelly Boyd who also helped make the Gingy puppet. 

As said before, the tech students working behind the scenes are what really made the magic happen, including the makeup, set, costumes, props, lights, sound, and house crews who all showed up to recreate the well-known fairytale on stage. 

Senior Erin Winslow, along with sophomore Julia LaFountaine, was in charge of organizing the makeup crew. LaFountaine said, “It was pretty difficult because I had to basically learn the whole show and get to know my crew at the same time. With new people, I had to make sure they were getting along with each other and step up as a leader, and I think that’s really valuable for me going forward and taking on future roles in theater.”

“Just seeing who got cast made the work less dreadful,” joked Grey. Just as Grey said, Davis agrees that the cast was the key to success in the show, especially sophomore Ryan Campbell who played the leading role of Shrek, junior Bailey Lewis as Donkey, senior Sarah Killmon as Fiona, and many more determined students who put their all into their characters. 

According to Killmon, “Shrek the Musical was an incredibly rewarding experience for all of us. After all of our time and hard work, we were met with overwhelming enthusiasm. We packed the house for each show and made enough money to pay off Sister Act in 2020, everything for Shrek, and to have a profit for the chorus department which was awesome and tied the whole experience together beautifully. The cast and crew honestly became a family by the end of the show and we all are so grateful for this opportunity and will never forget it.”

“I feel like rehearsals went fairly well,” said Campbell, who felt confident with the month they had to prepare. “On show night, there was always some sort of minor hiccups, and it was never the same thing each time. However, my biggest concern was my nose, because I was just afraid it would fall off.” 

Despite the hardships, Campbell feels that the experience was worth it: “You’re gonna be tired some days, and you’re gonna go in and come out and just want to take a nap while thinking ‘do we have to rehearse today?’ But, just enjoy it because now that I’m done with it, I miss it and all of the people. You’re never gonna do a production with all of the same people twice.”