Phoenix Players go green with ‘Shrek the Musical’

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Shrek, played by Brandon Byng, is a little out of sorts as Princess Fiona, played by Kristian Blaas, jumps on his back near the end of the first act for “Shrek the Musical.” The musical hits Clintonville on Friday and continues through June 16.

The beloved tale of an ogre seeking the happy ending many fairy-tale characters take for granted is arriving in Clintonville on Friday.

The Phoenix Players will be performing “Shrek the Musical” for the next two weekends. The group is performing this show at Clintonville High School instead of Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School due to projected scene backgrounds, elaborate dance scenes and a gigantic puppet.

The musical follows the same storyline as the film with the same name, but there are some differences. Shrek, as an ogre, has been feared and reviled all his life, prompting him to seek solitude in his swamp. That solitude is soon shattered, however, when a bunch of fairy-tale outcasts like Pinocchio, the Gingerbread Man and the Three Little Pigs move into the neighborhood after being banished by the short-tempered — heavy on the short part — Lord Farquaad.

Among the outcasts is Donkey, who accompanies Shrek to the kingdom of Duloc in order to plead for the unwanted new neighbors to be returned to their homes. Instead, Farquaad sends the pair to rescue the Princess Fiona, who is locked away in a tower and guarded by a dragon. The rescue does not go as planned as some surprise twists slow down Shrek’s efforts to be back home alone.

Brandon Byng is once again directing for the Phoenix Players, as well as playing the lead character. He noted that Shrek is one of his top five favorite roles, a role he also played when he was affiliated with Abrams Spotlight Productions.

“I think it’s a lot of fun because everybody loves the movie so much that it’s familiar, but it’s also different from the movie because it’s adapted for the stage,” Byng said. “There’s new songs, but all the characters are there — Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Lord Farquaad. I think it’s fun for everybody, because there’s stuff that kids will like and laugh at, and there’s lots of hidden adult humor, too.”

Byng had originally considered scheduling “Shrek” in a future year, but he said many of the actors with the Phoenix Players urged him to put it on sooner rather than later.

There are 22 actors in the show, ranging from age 9 to “advanced adult,” Byng said. Some of the actors are playing multiple roles, and each part requires unique costuming provided by Clintonville resident Maribeth Weidner.

Byng likes how the story has an overall message about outcasts overcoming the odds and finding a way to live happily ever after.

“The fairy tales say that ogres live alone, and they scare people, but you find out with Shrek there’s more to ogres,” Byng said. “They’re like onions; they have layers.”

There’s also the message of opposites attracting, Byng noted. Fiona appears human, but Shrek is definitely an ogre, and initially, he’s not interested in the niceties that a princess expects.

“They start to slowly find out that they have a lot in common, even though she’s a human princess and he’s an ogre,” Byng said. “Then you find out that Fiona has this curse on her.”

When Byng performed the musical in Abrams, an actress played the dragon. For Clintonville, though, the Phoenix Players are renting a larger-than-life dragon puppet that will be operated by three people, he said.

“I’m really excited to be getting that, because we weren’t able to do that before because we didn’t have this large of a stage,” Byng said.

Working on the stage at the high school has been a big help in bringing the tale of “Shrek” to life, Byng said, but he’ll be happy to return to the auditorium on the upper level of Rexford-Longfellow.

“We miss our old stage a little bit, too,” Byng said.


WHAT: “Shrek the Musical”

WHEN: 7 p.m. June 7-8 and June 14-15, 1 p.m. June 9 and June 16

WHERE: Auditorium, Clintonville High School, 64 W. Green Tree Road

TICKETS: Advanced tickets are $12 for the general public, $10 for ages 65 and over and $7 for ages 12 and under. Prices go up $2 at the door. Advanced tickets available at www.phoenixplayerswi.com.