May 3—With face masks on, about 40 Tahlequah Middle School students rehearsed Monday for the upcoming production of "Shrek The Musical Jr." For Friday only, "Shrek" brings the return of live theater to the Tahlequah High School Performing Arts Center.
"We are very excited because this is the first live theater production for the district," said David Fuller, director and drama teacher. "We're so excited to give the kids an artistic outlet. They've been missing that."
"Shrek The Musical Jr." is based on the book by William Steig and the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture. The music is by Jeanine Tesori, with the book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire.
"It's a condensed version. It follows the film closely, with songs added in," said Fuller.
Cast members had to learn about 15 songs in a short time, with most of them original to this production. The group will only have had 3-1/2 weeks of rehearsals before the shows, instead of the normal eight weeks.
"They've been spectacular. This has required them on their own to practice lines and songs," said Fuller.
The students will perform two shows for TMS students, then have a public performance May 7 at 7 p.m. in the THS PAC.
"We will have two buyouts for TMS students so we can social distance with seating. Because of COVID, there is only one evening show for the public," said Fuller.
Masks will be required for audience members, but the cast will not be wearing them during performances.
Show tickets will cost $3 for each child or student, and $6 for each adult. The main reason for charging is to help cover expenses of the licensing and costumes.
"'Shrek' is different mainly because of the costumes. They come from New York and we take measurements so they fit our actors. It adds a lot to what we're doing in this short timeframe," said Fuller. "We also received a grant from the Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation two years ago we have been able to use for this. We are very thankful for that."
Fuller hopes the next school year will be a little more normal, so TMS can hold more productions and a talent show.
After schoolwide auditions this semester, 38 students in grades 6-8 were selected for the cast and chorus.
"Only about nine or 10 are drama students; some are in choir. We draw from the entire school. If they like to sing, we have a part for them; if they like to help out more in the background, we have a part for them," said Fuller.
Backstage opportunities were limited to keep the number of people in the area down as safety precautions. Instructor Michael Peters and a group of THS theater students have been assisting with "Shrek." Fuller said they have taken the lead on sets and props.
TMS eighth-grader Emmalee McDonald has been in a number of plays. She will play the teen-aged Fiona; two others will play Fiona as a 3-year-old and adult.
"I like being in front of people and showing who I am through music and acting. It's always so much fun to do these things," said Emmalee. "It's a really fun show. The costumes are nice. They're my favorite costumes of shows we've had."
She said the limited rehearsal time has made the production a bit more difficult, but so has the time off due to the pandemic.
"I can memorize things fast and I only have a little bit of songs, so it hasn't been too bad, but a little harder," said Emmalee. "Because of COVID, it's hard because I have a little bit of stage fright because I haven't been on stage in a while."
"Shrek" will be Iris Martin's first TMS play, but the sixth-grader has performed in previous summer productions. She said all the experience of being part of the play has been good, but it still offers challenges.
"The voice of Pinocchio is kind of weird to get a hold of; it takes a lot of work. Getting everything memorized in that short of time has been challenging," said Iris. "It's been a while since I've been up here [on stage]. It's good to be back."
Iris likes the idea of why "Shrek" may have been chosen.
"It really spreads a good message of being a good person and being yourself," she said.
Tahlequah Middle School will present "Shrek The Musical Jr." Friday, May 7, at 7 p.m. in the THS Performing Arts Center. Masks will be required and social distancing will be in place.