Cumberland County Playhouse is known for its lavishly costumed musicals with topnotch professional actors, so when Playhouse spokesman John Fionte says its upcoming show "just might be its most spectacular production yet," it's worth taking note.
The Playhouse will bring once-upon-a-time-land to life for an 11-week run of "Shrek the Musical," opening Friday, June 13, at the Crossville, Tenn., theater. "Shrek" closes Sunday, Aug. 31.
Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks movie, the musical tells the story of the huge green ogre and his jive-talking sidekick Donkey, who set off on an odyssey to save a kidnapped princess. The plot is fleshed out with 19 musical numbers accompanied by an orchestra.
Tired of being mocked and feared by townspeople, Shrek has exiled himself to live out a lonely life in a swamp hut. Then several fairy-tale characters (Pinocchio, Three Pigs, Three Blind Mice, Snow White) invade his hut, telling Shrek they've been evicted by the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad. Shrek promises to get their homes back if they'll leave his. But Farquaad will only agree to that deal if Shrek rescues Princess Fiona. Shrek succeeds on his mission, only to find himself falling for the ditzy princess who mysteriously runs off when the sun sets.
¦ What: "Shrek the Musical."
¦ When: June 13-Aug. 31.
¦ Where: Cumberland County Playhouse, 221 Tennessee Valley Ave., Crossville, Tenn.
¦ Admission: $27 adults, $26 senior adults, $25 groups, $14 students.
¦ Phone: 931-484-5000.
¦ Website: www.ccplayhouse.com.
Tackling the title role will be Britt Hancock, who charmed playhouse patrons as Professor Harold Hill in "The Music Man" and who is co-starring with Kellye Cash in a concurrent production, "Annie Get Your Gun." Anna Baker is the beautiful Princess Fiona, and Michael Ruff is Donkey.
Fionte says Hancock will be transformed into the monster with the use of a hood, facial prosthetics and the talent of costumer designer Terry Schwab. In fact, Schwab faces his own monster of a challenge in costuming Shrek and his merry band of fractured fairy-tale people. Fionte says Schwab has built 120 costumes for the show and at least 17 wigs.
In addition to creating the illusion of Shrek's height, he also has to design a costume for Daniel Black, shortening him into the 4-foot, 2-inch Lord Farquaad. Black plays the entire show on his knees, reveals Fionte.
"His costume is designed to cover that fact," he says, adding there is actually a set of "very short, fake legs built into the design."
Schwab's costuming will be enhanced with elaborate special effects, Fionte says, such as Pinocchio's nose, which will actually "grow" right before the audience, and a 30-foot dragon that Fionte deems "impressive." The musical also will feature scenery by Curtis Phillips along with state-of-the-art video production by Phillips and Mikael Drobny.
"Shrek the Musical" combines the comedy of the fairy-tale misfits, with romance and a moral to the story that reminds audience members to look further than skin deep to see someone's true beauty. The G-rated plot is filled with sight gags and humor for children as well as wry wit that their parents will get.
Fionte promises if you loved "Shrek" the movie, you'll love the Playhouse production.
"There are far more similarities to the movie than differences. It's the movie onstage but with more singing and dancing. There is a certain magic seeing all this come to life onstage. It's one thing to see it in an animated film but another to bring it to life," says Fionte.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.