Fairytale favorites find new life onstage in ‘Shrek the Musical’

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 19, 2019

 From left, Jay Callahan plays Donkey, Panos Varlamos plays Shrek and Alison Grojean plays  Princess Fiona in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “Shrek the Musical.”

From left, Jay Callahan plays Donkey, Panos Varlamos plays Shrek and Alison Grojean plays Princess Fiona in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “Shrek the Musical.”

Photo by Chris Prantza, provided by Grosse Pointe Theatre

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GROSSE POINTE PARK — Grosse Pointe Theatre’s latest show is “Shrek the Musical,” a theatrical production based on the popular book and animated film. But while “Shrek” is certainly family-friendly, you don’t need to be a kid — or bring one — to enjoy it.

“I think this is a show written for adults that kids will enjoy because their favorite fairytale characters are in it,” said director Nick Marinello, of St. Clair Shores. “It’s funny. It’s irreverent. It’s referential (to pop culture).”

The story of the titular homely green ogre and his sassy sidekick, Donkey, the spirited Princess Fiona, a temperamental and insecure ruler named Lord Farquaad and an assortment of fairytale misfits, GPT’s “Shrek the Musical” will open with a matinee at 2 p.m. March 24 at Pierce Middle School in Grosse Pointe Park. Productions will run at Pierce through April 6.

Julia Chateau, of Detroit, who is doing hair and makeup design with Jackie Pfaff, of Chesterfield Township, said this is the type of show where some of the humor is geared toward youngsters, but other jokes “would go over kids’ heads.”

The cast and crew say audiences will learn more about the characters in this version of the story, which is surprisingly moving.

“You get to see a more in-depth version of Shrek,” said Alison Grojean, of Clinton Township, who plays Fiona. “He’s not just old and grumpy.”

“It’s the same for Fiona,” said Panos Varlamos, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who plays Shrek. “You see her character standing on her own.”

Jay Callahan, of Clinton Township, who plays Donkey, first played Shrek in a high school production of the musical directed by Marinello at Chippewa Valley High School. He said he’s thrilled to be playing Donkey — even if he is costumed “in a legit Snuggie with no hands, minimal feet, very gray” — and calls this one of his favorite musicals.

“To this day, it’s one of my favorite experiences of all time,” Callahan said of his high school “Shrek the Musical” debut.

Zack Coates, of Detroit, plays Lord Farquaad; Pamela Plewa, of Shelby Township, plays the Dragon; Ashley Serra, of Clinton Township, plays Pinocchio; and Jordan Prisby, of Clinton Township, plays Gingy and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Marinello said the pop music score is fast-paced.

“There’s not a dull moment,” he said.

The show includes several remarkable, quick costume changes — one of which requires a team of six to transform one iconic character in less than two minutes.

“It’s like a NASCAR (pit) crew,” said Chateau, noting that these changes are further complicated because they have to be done in the dark.

Marinello said the set is “like walking into a storybook.”

“It’s bright colors and whimsical shapes,” he continued. “We’re mirroring that in our costumes and makeup design.”

Kids will be able to meet the characters after matinee productions March 30 and April 6; there also will be 8 p.m. shows both of those Saturdays.

Regardless of age, those involved with the show say audiences will have a good time.

“This is a great outlet for people to get away from what’s going on in their lives,” Callahan said.

The cast also includes Julia Bayer, of St. Clair Shores; Erica Beike, of Clinton Township; MaryLynn Bertetto, of Grosse Pointe Farms; Robert Bertetto, of Grosse Pointe Farms; Isaac Brenner, of Grosse Pointe Park; Julianna Brenner, of Grosse Pointe Park; Olyvia Brown, of Grosse Pointe Park; Ellie Dempz, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Noah Hanahan, of Royal Oak; Madison Kaimala, of Clinton Township; Kristina Kamm, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Amber MacCallum, of Oak Park; Patrick MacCallum, of Oak Park; Robby Mullinger, of Clinton Township; Amanda Nummy, of Ann Arbor; Kyle O’Donnell, of Grosse Pointe Park; Daniel Ragan, of Highland Township; Beatrix Reily, of Detroit; Amy Ricker, of Sterling Heights; David Rochon, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Robert “Zak” Shugart, of Troy; Taylor Skelcy, of Clinton Township; Campbelle Stencel, of Grosse Pointe Farms; and Brett Wotherspoon, of Detroit.

Pierce Middle School is located at 15430 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park. Free valet parking will be available. Tickets cost $25 per person. For tickets or more information, call GPT at (313) 881-4004 or visit www.gpt.org.

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