Big, green and breaking out in song

Shrek: the Musical
Eastwood Collegiate Institute’s production of Shrek: the Musical hits the stage for four performances starting today (Apr. 21). From left, Evelyn Wiebe, Miranda Elliot, Ben Skipper and Laura Woodall. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Shrek: the Musical
Eastwood Collegiate Institute’s production of Shrek: the Musical hits the stage for four performances starting today (Apr. 21). From left, Evelyn Wiebe, Miranda Elliot, Ben Skipper and Laura Woodall. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Eastwood Collegiate Institute’s latest musical production brings a family favourite fairytale to life this weekend for four performances that will have you singing “I’m a Believer.”

Based on the 2001 Dreamworks animated film, Shrek: the Musical features all the familiar fairytale creatures, along with an impressive musical score and a large cast and crew of talented students.

ECI’s Integrated Arts Program attracts students from across the region to the school, including St. Jacobs’  Miranda Elliot. The tenth grader will be playing princess Fiona’s mom and also performs in many ensemble pieces.

“There are so many opportunities to get involved,” said Elliot.

More than 100 students and staff have come together to bring the musical to fruition, building elaborate sets and even an incredibly life-like Dragon puppet, which was created by student Laura Woodall.

“There’s a whole scene where there’s puppets and there’s these really cool butterflies and flowers to enhance the scenery. They had someone who actually makes puppets come in and help the art department,” Elliot said.

Professional puppeteer Gord Robertson – best known for his work on Zoboomafoo, The Jim Henson Hour, and Fraggle Rock – helped the students design the puppets used in the show.

“Honestly one of my favourite parts of the show is we have a 16-foot-long dragon. It’s phenomenal,” says Ben Skipper who plays Shrek. “It’s completely made and sculpted by Laura Woodall. It is a fantastic puppet. The mouth moves, it blinks.”

“If you come to see anything you have to see the dragon,” adds Evelyn Wiebe, who plays Fiona.

The cast received their scripts before the Christmas break and began rehearsing the first day back. Skipper says the musical is very similar to the movie, with just a few scenes omitted because they would be too difficult logistically to recreate.

“The basic plot follows the same plot of Shrek getting all the fairytale creatures dumped on his swamp and then wanting to go and find Farquaad to get them off of his land, only to find out that he has to go rescue the princess in order to do so. And then of course everyone knows what happens in the movie following that,” Skipper said.

Elliot notes they add in other fairytale cameos throughout the show, like Peter Pan. And Wiebe says there’s a new element of humour in the play.

While the musical is geared towards children, it’s definitely not child’s play for the crew.

“It’s a show that relies so heavily on how it looks and that look of the fairytale land and making sure all the creatures look realistic and yet still the characters they’re supposed to represent. So that’s been a huge challenge, but we have an amazing art department and design crew who’ve been able to build sets, build props, make costumes that look fantastic,” Skipper said.

“As well as the variation of locations throughout the show. There are so many different places,” Elliot adds.

In the same vein, students were busy this week adding final touches to the numerous backdrops created for the production.

“I think we’re all just really appreciative and recognize how many people come together to put this on, especially this show with such elaborate sets, elaborate tech specifics, costuming. It really makes you appreciate everything and we want people to come and see that and hopefully experience that too,” Wiebe said.

The family friendly nature of the show will likely draw in families who aren’t related to any of the performers but recognize the movie’s enduring factor.

And because the musical is such a joint effort the students say it’s bringing the whole school closer together.

“I’ve got to know so many more people than I expected to and knowing how many parts of the school come together to do it with the art department, the music department, tech, everything, set, costuming, makeup, it’s just getting to know how everybody comes together to put it on is pretty cool,” Wiebe said.

“I liked learning from everyone that I’m seeing sing for the first time or act for the first time. I just think that’s really cool,” Elliot added.

Elementary school classes from Waterloo Region will be attending the show, as ECI’s musical productions have become a favoured field trip, and the messages of inclusion and diversity help promote anti-bullying.

It also has a great message about embracing your individuality, perfect for audiences of any age.

“There’s one song close to the end of Act Two called ‘Freak Flag’ and it’s sung by all the fairytale creatures right before they go to take down Farquaad. It’s basically a song about just being yourself, let yourself be who you are. It doesn’t matter what other people think, it doesn’t matter if you’re different, just let your freak flag fly, as they say,” Skipper said.

Shrek: The Musical runs Apr. 21-23, with evening performances Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and a Saturday matinee at 1 p.m. Tickets are $20 for evening shows and $15 for the matinee. Tickets are on sale at the school at 760 Weber St. E., Kitchener, and at the door one hour before each show. For more information or to order tickets by phone, call 519-743-8265, ext. 789.

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