Riverview High School musical cast members and directors plan to deliver family fun mixed with a message of individuality and acceptance in this year’s production of “Shrek the Musical.”
The show is based on the DreamWorks Animation motion picture and the book by William Steig.
“Bringing this fairy tale with the level of comedy, dramatics, dance and lighting, I think, will have its own unique year,” said John Paul Bertucci, Riverview’s musical director since 1999. “We’re diving in deep about the story within the story on Shrek. There’s a lot of deep inner meaning and emotion that is felt by multiple characters, and about these characters really tying to find their place in the world. We’re really working on bringing that message strong with this as well as a large production.”
Set in a fantasy land, it tells the story of Shrek, played by senior Preston Proctor. This is his fourth musical.
Shrek is a hulking green ogre who, after being picked on and feared throughout his life by anyone he came across, retreats to the swamps to live in isolation.
“It’s basically my dream role,” Proctor said. “The rejected monster that’s just looking for love. It’s probably the most difficult role that I’ve done because this is the lead … Everyone’s really been giving it their all.”
A gang of homeless fairy-tale characters such as Pinocchio, Cinderella and the three pigs raid Shrek’s sanctuary and tell him they’ve been evicted by the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad.
Shrek strikes a deal in which he attempts to get the gang’s home back in exchange for his own.
He meets Farquaad, and they make a deal in which Shrek must save Princess Fiona in order for the fairy-tale gang to get their home back. Fiona is played by senior Meredith Kocur.
“This musical is so much fun,” Kocur said. “I’ve known about this musical since I was in third grade. I danced to one of the numbers and remember loving the music so much. I think people are going to be laughing a bunch. I’m glad it’s my last one because we have a lot of younger kids that got on this year. They can help the program last and keep on keeping on.”
One of Kocur’s breakout scenes is a tap-dance number. She’s confident everyone will be ready for opening night despite some early setbacks.
“Everything this year has been so last minute due to not having a conductor,” she said. “We didn’t have a vocal director and we didn’t know what we were going to do for our budget.”
Those positions were eventually filled and the cast and crew started the hard work in January. Students built and painted the sets.
“There’s going to be some really cool technical aspects, but ‘Shrek’ is a family show so bring your kids,” said senior Summer Girson, technical director and puppeteer. “I know these actors. They’re great with comedic timing. I think this show’s going to be one of the funniest we’ve done.”
Girson and other students received some lighting and sound professional development from Point Park University adjunct professor Jimmy Baker, who worked on seven “Shrek the Musical” productions.
Seventh-grader Georgia Tsambis, 13, is one of the younger cast members. She plays the young version of Fiona. It is her first district musical and second in her theatrical career. Georgia played Annie in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s “Annie” last year.
“I’ve always loved to dance, sing and act,” she said. “Just creating stuff with other people who enjoy it is really fun. Meeting Preston and Meredith, who are such inspirational people to me, is so cool. It’s nice to know there’s people like that out there.”
It’s also a district debut for producer Dave Longstreth, longtime music director and current communications director for Riverside Community Church in Oakmont. His daughter, Kylie, is in the show’s dragon trio, among other parts.
“I love marketing, communications, business, which is basically what a producer does,” he said. “It’s just a well (worn) glove kind of fit.”
Other firsts for the musical include online ticket sales and the production’s own website, rhsmusical.org.
“It’s just very convenient for patrons to go on to our website and order tickets,” Longstreth said. “They get to select their seats. All seats are reserved. It’s just a very easy online ordering experience. Our box office is going to be open an hour before each show for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to do online tickets.”
There will be a photo booth in the auditorium library so people can take photos with cast members after each show.
More information about the show, including a cast and crew list, is available at rhsmusical.org.