A group of 53 teens and pre-teens from Elmhurst will be among the first performers in the state to stage "Shrek The Musical." DIY Teen Theatre, now in its fifth season, brings the unlikely romance to life on stage from Thursday through Sunday, July 25 to 28.
The troupe invites audience members to experience the magic all "ogre" again, as Shrek and Donkey set out to rescue Princess Fiona from a fiery dragon – and win back their swamp from the fearsome Lord Farquaad in the process. Little do they know that Fiona has a secret — she's a princess by day – but at night?
Joining Shrek and Fiona are colorful characters straight out of all the favorite fairy tales, including Pinnochio, Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, The Ugly Duckling and Three Little Pigs.
Teen director Helen Knudsen, 18, jumped onboard the production of "Shrek" as soon as licensing rights were released.
“We are the first nonprofessional group in our area — and only the second in Illinois — to produce the show,” Knudsen said. “It’s the first time I have directed a play without having seen it performed, so that makes 'Shrek' especially challenging. But our young actors are so talented, I knew they could handle anything — even the love story between an ogre and a princess.”
Eleven-year-old Jake Rehling, who plays the Gingerbread Man, adds, “'Shrek The Musical' is going to be a fantastic show, the characters are so funny. You can always count on DIY and Helen to put on an amazing production.”
Along with fellow teens Kirsten Mose, 16, and Clark Pavlik, 16, Knudsen leads a cast of 53 young actors, all in grades four to nine. An 11-piece orchestra, conducted by Abi Arnold, 19, plays the lively score, including songs such as "Big Bright Beautiful World," "Let Your Freak Flag Fly" and "I’m a Believer."
“The music and dance is something truly special in this show," said Kirsten Mose, co-director. "'Shrek' has an amazing score in the first place, and the kids just bring it life.”
The concept behind the do-it-yourself Teen Theatre is that teens and kids work together with minimal adult help to bring a musical to the stage. They plan and budget the show, obtain the production license, run auditions, teach music and dance, create costumes, sell tickets, and take care of the hundreds of other details involved in producing a live musical.
Six short weeks of rehearsal keep the kids busy five days a week, not just learning stage skills, but working together as a tight-knit team in which every child makes a contribution. The themes of this year’s show — individuality and acceptance — play into the group’s mission of helping every child to discover his or her own talents.
Co-director Clark Pavlik puts it this way, “'Shrek' teaches us that it’s not what is on the outside, but what is on the inside that really matters. And no matter what society puts in your way, it is still possible to be happy.”
"Shrek" will be performed in the Valentino Center at Visitation School, 851 S. York Road, Elmhurst. Curtain is at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 25 and 26, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28. Tickets cost $9 for adults, and $7 for students, and will be available only at the door.
To learn more about the theater, visit diyteentheatre.com.