'Shrek' a feel good fairy tale for all ages

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Jacob Spencer, performing as Shrek, and other cast members rehearse a scene from The Center Players' upcoming production of "Shrek, The Musical Jr.," in the Maguire Theater, Tuesday night.


By Anna Goodwin McCarthy

Sunday, November 4, 2018

With a talented cast of characters that will make you laugh and warm your heart, The Center Players’ production of “Shrek The Musical” is sure to make you a “Believer” that love is not only found in typical fairy tales.

Jacob Spencer plays, Shrek, the grouchy but lovable ogre who steals the hearts of Princess Fiona and the audience by the end of the performance.

Surrounded in his swamp by a group of fairy tale characters who have been evicted from their village by a dreadful lord, Shrek just wants to be left alone. However, the only way Shrek can regain his solace and his swamp is through a deal with Lord Farquaad to rescue the princess Farquaad wishes to marry in order to assume reign as king. Shrek agrees to save Princess Fiona who has been locked away in a tower guarded by a fire breathing dragon.

Joining him on his journey is the humorous Donkey, played by Lauren Heath, who despite all Shrek’s cantankerous reactions is determined to be the ogre’s friend.

Admirably resolute and steadfast in her will, Princess Fiona learns that her expectation of Prince Charming was not based in reality. A truer love may come from a source that is green, grumpy and unexpectedly endearing.

Princess Fiona is played by Abby Bright and Isabelle Keeling who are alternating showtimes.

“It is the story of a very-unlikely hero,” said Jo Ellen Aspinwall, who is the AoA School of the Arts director and the director of the Center Players. The Center Players is a performing arts program for children in third through twelfth grade.

Based on the popular animated movie, the Center Players production of “Shrek The Musical” is a junior version of the Broadway musical. The junior version is very similar to the original musical, but it is shorter in length, said Aspinwall.

Aspinwall said she wanted to select a musical that was appropriate and challenging for the Center Players.

Aspinwall said the Center Players program has 10-week sessions where they participate in vocal, dance and acting classes that culminate with a production. During the class sessions, Aspinwall said students are divided by age groups in order to “tailor the curriculum.”

Aspinwall said she instructs the Center Players on how to analyze a character in both their acting classes and rehearsals.

“How would this character move? How does my voice change? How do I stand differently?” are some of the prompts Aspinwall encourages the students to think about when onstage.

Aspinwall said the productions give the students an opportunity to gain “real experience” on the stage in front of an audience.

Aspinwall said members of the Center Players “were so excited” when they learned they would have a chance to perform in “Shrek The Musical.”

“They have been lobbying for the show for a while,” said Aspinwall of the more than 34 cast members who will be appearing.

“It is just so lighthearted, fun, big and over the top,” said Aspinwall. “They get to be silly on purpose.”

Rehearsals and preparations for the musical commenced in September.

Aspinwall said all the songs in the musical are “fun” from the cast singing “I’m a Believer” to the fairy tale creatures singing “Freak Flag.” Aspinwall said there is also a scene where a young version of Fiona, a teen version of Fiona and the present time Princess Fiona all sing “I Know It’s Today.”

The set includes background trees in the swamp, a castle tower and a giant cookie sheet.

Aspinwall said “Shrek the Musical” is a production that all ages will enjoy.

Showtimes for the musical are: (Nov. 15, 16, 17 at 7 p.m.) and (Nov. 17, 18 at 2 p.m.). Tickets are $18 for AoA non-members, $15 for members, and $12 for students. Tickets are available at the AoA or online at http://artsaoa.org.