‘Shrek’ on stage in Theatre Aspen School production | AspenTimes.com

‘Shrek’ on stage in Theatre Aspen School production

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
The Theatre Aspen School's production of "Shrek" has a cast of 35 actors, including its Young Company made up of actors in grades 4 to 7.
Aubree Dallas/The Aspen Times |

If You Go …

What: ‘Shrek, The Musical,’ presented by Theatre Aspen School

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Thursday, Dec. 11 – Saturday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m.; also Saturday, Dec. 13, 2 p.m.

Cost: $12/students; $20/adults

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; http://www.aspenshowtix.com

More Info: http://www.theatreaspen.org

A cast of valleywide local students will bring Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona, and a band of fairytale creatures to singing, dancing life in the Theatre Aspen School’s winter production of “Shrek, The Musical.”

The 2008 musical, based on the beloved Dreamworks movie, enjoyed a year-long Broadway run and a national tour. It retells the “Shrek” story, with the addition of clever, kid-friendly original songs like the opening number, “Big Bright Beautiful World,” and the individualistic anthem “Freak Flag.” The local production opens Thursday, Dec. 11 at the Wheeler Opera House, with a cast of 35 young actors.

“If you enjoyed the film, you’re going to love the musical,” said Theatre Aspen director of education and outreach Graham Northrup, who also directs the show. “All of your favorite characters and the themes are there, but they’ve added these new song and dance numbers, which add new dimensions to it.”

This week, Northrup and his cast and crew were on the tail end of six weeks of rehearsals. Monday night, they ran through the play for the first time on the Wheeler stage, with its large wooden sets in place – recreating the swamps and forests of Duloc – and the historic theater’s technological bells and whistles running.

“It’s going to be spectacular in terms of the visual look,” Northrup said. “It’s a huge production – the costumes, the sets and lights – and we have a really top-tier cast of young people.”

Aspen High School’s T.J. Kaiser stars in the show as the loveable ogre Shrek – and has his Scottish accent down – with Lyon Hamill as Donkey, Beth Fawley as Fiona and Luke Ryan as Prince Farquaad.

Northrup has worked with Kaiser on Theatre Aspen School productions dating back to 2009’s “Sweeney Todd,” and last winter cast him in a lead role as Jack in “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

“He’s a hard worker and will try to do what you direct him to do, but he also brings his own stuff to the role – he’s a contributing artist – which is the kind of actor you want to have in the lead,” Northrup said.

The production teams its young cast with Theatre Aspen’s professionals. Along with Northrup, Jonathan Gorst serves as musical director and Alie Walsh – who played Beth in Theatre Aspen’s production of “Little Women” last summer – serves as choreographer and stage manager.

Monday evening, Walsh was wrangling a dozen actors in the Young Company – grades 4 to 7 – on the stage and working out the kinks in dance steps, stage entrances and exits with her cast. She complimented her young charges as she delved into some detailed aspects of stage presence during “Big Bright Beautiful World.”

“This is very picky, which shows how good you’re doing,” she told her actors.

Friday night’s show is followed by a meet-and-greet reception (dubbed a “Shrek-ception”) during which fans can take photos with the cast.