Shrek the Musical debuts at Roxy Theater

Friday, June 14, 2019
Seven pit members and a cast of 49 make Shrek’s debut in Alta possible this week. / Photos by Elijah Decious

With 49 actors and seven pit members, Buena Vista Community Theatre is bringing the happily ever after swamp story to Alta’s Roxy Theater for the first time.

The debut of Shrek the Musical will be both recognizable and quite different from the movie, with 16 songs—most of which are original to the musical.

Directed by first-timer Tessa Baxter on stage, musically led by Corbet Butler and costumed by Kim Kelly, the adaptation is sure to guarantee some knee slapping.

Fiona (played by Liz Gregg), awaits her “prince charming” to rescue her from the tower she has been locked away in since childhood.

“The cast is doing a really nice job, and we’ve got a really great pit here,” said Butler, former Alta-Aurelia High School band director who is now working in Storm Lake’s school district. “Any time you have a big production, lots of things go in different directions.”

Baxter, a Buena Vista University English major and theater minor, is relishing in her first time directing the production after being a part of BVCT productions for seven years.

“It’s very different from the movie,” she explains, with a lot more music. “But it captures the vibes of Shrek. Still fun, lots of farts and burps,” and lots of jokes that only adults will understand. All of the original characters will make an appearance, and she says the audience will love Puss in Boots.

Shrek (Nate Titus) puts on a mean face in an opening song.

She has been leading a cacophony of characters in rehearsals for upwards of 75 hours up until now, rehearsing two hours per night, four days per week since April.

The production involved significantly more choreography than any of the prior productions she has been involved in, more than simple steps like walking in circles. “It’s a lot of dancing, just different,” said Baxter, something kids love.

One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to get Shrek’s face green.

The Bear Family begrudgingly goes along with a number. Papa Bear is played by retiring A-A Superintendent Lynn Evans, Mama Bear is played by Buena Vista Community Theatre veteran Carrie Buddenhagen and Baby Bear is played by Brody Bisenius.

But the cast isn’t just kids. Everyone from 7 to 70 is playing a role.

“Any time you have a cast like that, it’s fun to see how everybody interacts, and it’s great for the younger kids to see that you can do theater until you’ve got gray hair or no hair,” said Butler. “That’s always a fun experience to see for those kids, because they look up to the older actors and actresses.”

The music man and director have enjoyed meeting people where they’re at in theater, he said.

Pinocchio (Alex Stansbury) is sent to the corner of the stage as he’s ridiculed by the others for pretending to be “a real boy.” Pinocchio’s lies are punctuated by sound effects for nose growth.

Baxter also commends Kelley for her work on 49 costumes. “I’m very thankful for her, she’s amazing,” she said. “She’s not giving herself enough credit, because they look amazing.”

With a movie on Netflix for inspiration, characters have taken bits and pieces and brought them to life with their own unique characteristics.

“Everyone’s doing such a good job bringing their characters to life,” Baxter said. “They all have individual personalities happening.”

Donkey’s character (Andrew W. Wobbema) uses a voice that could easily be mistaken for Eddie Murphy’s.

“They’re so fun that nobody’s going to notice that they aren’t exactly the same,” she added. “Which makes it special too, that it’s not exactly the same.”

BVTC thanks United Bank of Iowa and Cameo Beauty Salon for their contributions to subsidize the cost of t-shirts for the cast.

Shrek the Musical will be performing June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 7 p.m., and June 16 and 23 at 3 p.m. at the Roxy Theater in Alta. Tickets are $15 for adults, or $10 for children 12 and under, available for reservation at (712) 732-4157 or at the door until sold out.