Shrek The Musical Premieres in SA
Fairy Tales should really be updated. This Dreamworks Theatricals production does just that in its clever adaptation of fairy tales led by a cantankerous green ogre with a big heart.
Presented by Adelaide Youth Theatre (AYT), Shrek The Musical opened on Friday 19th January 2018 to appreciative audiences, and has already received rave reviews.
The book and lyrics, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, are filled with witty one-liners and the jovial score, composed by Jeanine Tesori, is a celebration of individuality and self-acceptance that does justice to its cinematic origin.
I have been afforded the rare privilege of watching this South Australian production come to life behind the scenes with baton and piano conductor score at hand. As musical director and vocal coach for this production, I’ve spent a considerable number of hours over consecutive days with the cast of 68 performers. As daunting as the task seemed, our creative team managed to rehearse an entire musical in ten days with two casts who alternated across a ten-show season.
Director Thomas Brodie Phillips peeled back the emotional layers from our actors, eliciting dramatic expression and comic timing, whilst choreographer Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti added the glamour and glitz that made showstoppers such as ‘What’s Up Duloc’ and ‘Morning Person’ so captivating.
Since 2010 AYT co-producers Emma Riggs and Kerreane Sarti have been providing young performers with opportunities to hone their craft starting with the musical Bugsy Malone. Both Riggs and Sarti are professional performers and educators. Twenty-eight seasons of musicals, cabaret nights, international tours, West End and Broadway masterclasses, and award-winning performances, have preceded Shrek The Musical.
Performers experience the full gamut of technical components including lighting, sound, costumes, and props within the context of professional theatre. In this particular production puppetry training was provided as some actors steered a ten-metre-long dragon around the stage during act one.
A musical premiere would be incomplete without its orchestra. I am grateful to have shared the pit with an accomplished group of up-and-coming and seasoned musicians alike. True to the mission of AYT, I’ve attempted to assemble a group of teenage musicians mentored by adults. The orchestral sessions, interwoven with the cast rehearsals, kept me on my toes, but were nonetheless enriching.
I acknowledge the dedicated orchestral musicians who often don’t get mentioned in reviews: Paul Sinkinson, Thomas Byrne, Peter McPheat, Patrick Maher, Zachary Wachtel, Natasha Slater, Lara Turner, Lewis Blanchard, Kai Farrer, Ella Brock-Fabel, Liam Taylor, Ben Lainio, Iarla Bastians, Joaquin Poskey-Miles, and Azriel Poskey-Miles, and Jakub Gaudasinski.
These musicians have demonstrated professionalism despite a challenging deadline and extreme heat, and have supported the cast superbly. A special acknowledgement goes to my right-hand man, rehearsal pianist, and assistant musical director, Jesse Budel. He invested as many hours into rehearsals as I did and I thank him for his commitment and friendship.
In a unique move for a youth theatre company, AYT have cast several adults in principal roles to mentor the younger performers. As an educator, I saw the benefit of this mentorship and many of the young talents rose to the occasion working diligently alongside their more experienced counterparts.
Stepping behind the scenes is just as magical as witnessing the finished product. The transformation of actors as they begin to embody their characters is one of my favourite aspects of theatre. The gruelling pace was no exception and I enjoyed the versatile interpretations of the characters.
I relished watching Rebecca Raymond and Tegan Gully embrace Princess Fiona’s neuroticism as atypical princesses. Ray Cullen and Andrew Crispe portrayed the many layers of Shrek convincingly, and Jack Conroy and Nathan Stafford were energetic and side-splittingly hilarious as Donkey.
Brady Lloyd and Chad Crittle were deliriously funny as the antagonist, Lord Farquaad, and I was impressed by their agility given the physical requirements of their role. They were all supported by a talented ensemble, some of whom have returned home to Adelaide on their break from tertiary performing arts courses interstate.
Adelaide has a rich history of producing excellent theatre, both professional and amateur. Companies such as AYT are the lifeblood of the professional theatre industry. Many of their alumni are working in professional theatre shows and it is clear to me from this experience that the talent coming through is outstanding.
Having spent so much of my life on stage, I have thoroughly enjoyed the perspective that the orchestral pit had afforded me. Shrek The Musical shows that it is indeed a big, bright, beautiful world with possibilities everywhere. Visit adelaideyouththeatre.com.au to learn more.
Young performers describe their experience behind the scenes
“One of the younger cast members told me that I’m their role model and they want to be just like me. I was so blessed to hear that.” – Leah Harford (Gingy)
“AYT is such a big family, constantly growing, and are all so supportive of each other.” – Zali Sedgman (Dragon)
“The mics went down the other day and all of the booth singers sang our hearts out to support the onstage cast.” – Serena Martino-Williams (Dragon / Booth Singer)
“We brought our plush toy Shrek to dinner with us and seated him at the head of the table where the staff proceeded to serve him a beautifully garnished meal of an onion. Both Patrick (guitarist) and Joaquin (violinist) decided not to let the onion go to waste and ate it.” – Azriel Poskey-Miles (cellist)
“My favourite moments are our pre-show dance warm ups and we all have a great time before the show starts. AYT shows help me develop as a performer and give me the chance to meet new people.” – Deon Martino-Williams (Mad Hatter)