TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
A dragon puppet operated by four puppeteers takes the stage during a performance of Mecca Production’s “Shrek the Musical’ for students at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday.
Hollywood’s most famous ogre and throngs of fairy tale characters hit the stage Thursday for the beginning of a four-day run of "Shrek The Musical" at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.
Emilie Cox, dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy, helps Josh Watkins, dressed as Peter Pan, with his costume backstage during a performance of “Shrek The Musical” for students at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Avery Praznik, centre, hams it up with fellow Dulocians — cast members playing citizens of Duloc — backstage during a performance of Mecca Production’s “Shrek the Musical” for students at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Shrek, played by Grant Weisner, performs on stage with other cast members. The musical runs through Sunday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Nicole McNarry, playing Princess Fiona, sings during Thursday’s performance. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The production, which packs in references to dozens of well-known fairy tales, has been close to a year in the making with a cast of 60 ranging in age from six to 60.
With a restrained set design, the Mecca Productions play relies on elaborate costumes and puppeteering to tell the tale based on the 2001 computer animated movie (which was itself based on a 1990 picture book of the same name).
Marilyn Hardy, who is billed as the production’s "puppet and magical creator," is the designer behind the play’s most elaborate costumes, including the green ogre himself (played by Grant Weisner), the comically short Lord Farquaad (played by Ken Jackson) and a highly-detailed, crowd-pleasing 32-foot flying dragon, controlled by four puppeteers.
Hardy, an ER nurse at the Brandon Regional Health Centre who also used to build mascots in Edmonton, spent three months building the dragon, which is made of polyurethane foam, foam insulation, piping, electrical wire and "miles and miles" of pantyhose.
"As far as pure show value, Ken’s costume is the best," she said referring to Jackson’s portrait of the pint-size Lord Farquaad. He acts the entire play on his knees with puppet-like legs sewn onto black skirting.
However, Hardy isn’t taking credit for Farquaad’s rig — that’s how all Shrek productions portray the ruler of Duloc.
"Whoever thought of that is a genius," she said.
Lisa Vasconcelos, the show’s director and producer (who also played Humpty Dumpty), said Hardy was the key to the production’s success.
"I feel really lucky that she agreed to do the show, we wouldn’t have taken on the show — you can’t do Shrek without a dragon and you can’t do it without a Shrek head and you can’t just find that stuff," she said.
Vasconcelos said Hardy’s iteration of the on-stage dragon is similar to the bigger productions of the musical.
"Her work could be on Broadway," she said.
"Those kinds of things, you don’t usually see that here."
While the costumes bring the story to life, Vasconcelos said a lot of work also went into the play’s choreography, overseen by Monique Roy-Keller.
Like the movie, Vasconcelos said she was drawn to the script because of the layered humour to make it entertaining for kids and adults — and the production isn’t without a few fart jokes.
"It’s funny, there’s tons of jokes, just like the movie," she said.
"It’s the message of the story too, about believing in yourself and it is what makes you different from everybody else that makes you special."
The production continues today with a show at 7:30 p.m., two shows on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and a final show is on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the WMCA box office.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 18, 2013