Local performers excited to share 'Shrek: The Musical'

A wild bunch of characters will be taking the stage as part of “Shrek: The Musical” next weekend, including (l-r) Happy Villager (Hannah Theisen), The Bishop (Elisa Mill), Blind Mouse (Allie Gosen) and The Big Bad Wolf (Calvin Cheney).

A very large, very green and very famous ogre is making his way toward the stage of the Pine City High School Auditorium, and bringing a host of other fairy-tale creatures in tow.

The Pine City Heritage Players will be presenting “Shrek: The Musical” on Thursday, July 19, Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sunday, July 22 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. – and members of the cast can hardly contain their excitement about performing the Broadway musical version of the family-favorite film.  

“It’s a great family show,” said Zach Fluegel, who plays Shrek’s best friend Donkey in the show.  “Everybody’s seen ‘Shrek.’ I grew up watching the movie and then I found the musical, and that was just 10 times better.

“Shrek is an ogre,” explained Calvin Cheney, who plays the Big Bad Wolf. “He lives in a swamp by himself. One day a whole bunch of fairy-tale creatures are sent to live there. He goes out to rectify this because he wants to be alone.”

Shrek then meets Donkey and is sent to rescue the feisty  Princess Fiona by the obnoxious and over-compensating Lord Farquaad.

“Not only is it a fun story with great, great music – it has a deep meaning, telling anybody who has any misfit characteristic to accept it, be themselves, and eventually they’ll find people who accept them for who they are,” Cheney said.

Rachel Bigelow, who plays Fiona, changed from blonde to bright red to get into character for the show.

“I dyed my hair,” Bigelow said, laughing. “I commit. With all the movement that’s going on – at one point I do cartwheel – I just thought that having a wig on would be a little bit difficult. And, when else do you have an excuse to do something so different?”

It’s been two years since her last musical role as Marian the Librarian in “The Music Man,” and Bigelow said she can’t wait to show audiences what the cast of Shrek can do.

“I think the message that this play has to offer ... accepting others, being gracious towards others and loving yourself no matter what or where you come from is the first and foremost reason why people should come and see the show,” she said. “And it’s super fun. We have a lot of really, really great talent on this stage. And it’s a really family friendly show. It’s something whole families can come and enjoy together, which is really special.

Both Bigelow and Scott Tolzmann, who plays Shrek, had the chance to teach or coach Fluegel (Donkey) when he was in high school. Tolzmann said that Fluegel is hilarious and offers, “A manic energy. There are some moments in particular when Donkey has to be super larger than life. And he really brings it in spades - he just throws it out there.”

“It’s a really fun cast, and it’s a nice theater – I really love working in this space,” Fluegel said. “I’ve come to see a few shows and I’ve always wanted to work in [the Pine City High School Auditorium], so it’s really fun.”

“It’s a lot of fun to go out there and be this larger-than-life character, but then there are these really tender moments here and there,” Tolzmann said.

Bigelow said she’s sure everyone who comes to see Shrek will have a good time and feel the positive energy the musical has to offer.

“I think the overall message of the show, which is also kind of the journey that Fiona goes through, is learning how to love yourself just as you are,” Bigelow said. “She has this whole vision for how her life is supposed to go, and she’s been waiting and waiting and waiting for years. And that’s kind of turned on its head and she finds out – that’s OK. Sometimes what you expect for yourself isn’t exactly what happens, but sometimes what does happen is even better.”

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