WINTER GARDEN Bringing the animated world of Shrek to the stage is a challenge that the West Orange High School Theater Department knows well.
While it’s relatively simple to animate a fiery pit of lava or a larger-than-life dragon on a computer, it’s a whole other challenge to bring that fairy-tale world to life for a live audience.
“In a cartoon, anything is possible, so to translate that to stage is tricky,” said Tara Whitman, associate director of the school’s theater department and director of the department’s upcoming show, “Shrek: The Musical.”
“It required a lot of interesting and unique set needs,” she said.
When it was time for the department to choose its musical for the 2016-17 season, Whitman said that choosing Shrek was an easy choice.
“We knew it would be a crowd drawer,” she said. “It tells the story of the first (Shrek) movie, but with added music. It’s a beautiful score and a funny script.”
The musical is the second show Whitman has directed as the department’s associate director, but it’s an experience that she’s enjoying despite the challenges.
“I love working with the high-schoolers,” Whitman said. “It’s a lot of work, but my mentality is that it’s got to get done.”
When senior Ellie Roddy heard that the department had chosen “Shrek: The Musical” as this year’s show, she was thrilled.
“When I was 8 or 9, I was on a trip to New York City, and it was the first show that I ever saw,” she said. “After seeing Fiona, I always wanted to play her.”
Roddy got her wish, and will be playing Fiona during both shows on Saturday, Feb. 18.
“I love Fiona because she’s not an ordinary princess,” Roddy said. “She doesn’t care what others think; she lets loose. It’s just fun.”
The role of Shrek went to sophomore Sam Marzella.
“It was the part I was going for,” he said. “It’s such a good part. I love the aspect that he’s a hero but not. It’s almost like playing a villain as a protagonist.”
But playing the role of Shrek requires a lengthy transformation process. Marzella must sit in the makeup chair for nearly two hours as Shrek’s ears and nose are glued on and his entire head is painted green.
In the midst of the challenges of creating a dragon and castle from a fairy tale, “Shrek: The Musical” also required a large cast.
In addition to more than 30 high-schoolers, the production also required about 25 children. But getting the community involved in the school’s shows has always been a goal of the department, Whitman said.
“It’s neat to get them in from the community,” she said. “It’s something we try to do at least once a season - open our doors to the community.”
But the large cast, over-the-top set and crazy costumes are just part of the fun of theater.
“I love the realness of it,” Marzelle said about being part of the school’s theater program. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].