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'Shrek' premiere is great opportunity for Stage Right

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 7:02 p.m.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
(from left) Cast members, Brandon Shawl of Yough, as 'Pinocchio', Anna Stewart of Hempfield Township as 'Dragon', Greg Kerestan of Hempfield Township as 'Lord Farquaad', John Lypson of Connellsville as 'Bishop', Renata Marino of Greensburg as 'Fiona', David Mahokey of Pittsburgh at 'Donkey', and Serena Valletta of New Kensington as 'Dancer', rehearse for the Stage Right upcoming production of 'Shrek', Thursday evening, November 14, 2013, at the Stage Right School for Performing Arts and Professional Theatre Company, Greensburg, PA.

If Stage Right artistic director Tony Marino is extra cheerful this week, it's only because he is having so much fun fine-tuning his role as the mean ogre in “Shrek The Musical.” The damsel he'll be saving in the first area production of the Broadway hit is his real-life wife and the show's choreographer, Renata Marino, who plays Fiona, the Ogre Princess.

It's not only Tony Marino's fairytale role that has him beaming, though; it's everything about the show.

“It is rare that you can do the local premiere of any title. To be the first theater anywhere in the area to do the first local production of a show is incredibly special,” he says. “And we're doing this special and beautiful show the right way, with a great cast of pros, cutting-edge projections and animations and costumes rented straight from the touring companies that travel the country doing this musical.”

Chris Orosz, Stage Right's executive director, says the theater company had an opportunity to rent many of the “Shrek” costumes and bring in a props and production specialist through its contacts in New York.

“We are so excited about this show and want to serve the material as well as we can,” she says. “I think people are going to be blown away by the performances and overall look of the show.”

“Shrek The Musical” follows the story of the ugly ogre from “Shrek,” the 2001 animated film from DreamWorks that originated with William Steig's 1990 picture book of the same name. The stage version that opened on Broadway in 2008 was followed by tours in North America and Great Britain until it recently was made available to regional theaters.

In Stage Right's production, David Mahokey of Dunbar portrays Donkey, Shrek's sidekick on his journey to find Princess Fiona, who is the intended bride of Lord Farquaad, portrayed by Greg Kerestan of Greensburg.

While it might seem like Mahokey has the bigger challenge playing a donkey — he says he's still getting used to having to gesture with hooves, not hands — actually it's probably Kerestan who has a more demanding role.

Lord Farquaad is the height-challenged ruthless ruler of Duloc, who is not of royal heritage but will become king if he marries a princess, whom he decides will be Fiona.

To convey his shortness to the audience, the script calls for the actor playing Farquaad to walk on his knees, with puppet legs attached to his thighs.

“It requires a lot of stunt work,” Kerestan says. “It's probably one of the most physical roles I have done.”

Both actors say they were fans of “Shrek” as far back as elementary school, and they're having a blast doing the show.

“Shrek and Donkey are two of the best-known iconic characters in pop culture,” Mahokey says.

A 12-piece orchestra directed by Mike Matteo and vocals directed by Cynthia Baltzer help to bring an energetic score to life, including choreography that features a chorus of dancing mice.

“If the guy playing Shrek — me — can be half as great as the talent he is surrounded by, it's going to be a show that anyone who sees it will be talking about for a long time,” Tony Marino says.

Also featured in the cast of 50 are Joe Pedulla, Maurissa Auer and Alex Noble.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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