In Act 1 of â€œShrek the Musical,â€ the song â€œI Know Itâ€™s Todayâ€ defines who Princess Fiona is â€” and who sheâ€™s not.
Says director Jason Moore: â€œIt addresses what the princess has been doing in that tower for 20 years and whatâ€™s going on in her head.â€
â€œIt sets up her desire to wait for her handsome prince,â€ Moore says, â€œbut it really reveals that sheâ€™s feisty and impatient and willful and all the things that waiting princesses arenâ€™t supposed to be. That juxtaposition of ideas is what gives her character its interest.â€
The song â€” one of the first written by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire â€” is a sort of 3 x 100 musical theater relay in which we meet three Fionas: Young Fiona, played alternately by Keaton Whittaker and Leah Greenhaus; Teen Fiona, played by Westchesterâ€™s Marissa Oâ€™Donnell in her Broadway debut, and Princess Fiona, played by Tony-winner Sutton Foster.
â€œâ€˜I Know Itâ€™s Todayâ€™ is Fionaâ€™s song of hope,â€ Foster explains. â€œIt shows her growing up, getting frustrated, waiting her whole life and going a little stir-crazy. Her mantra is â€˜I know itâ€™s today. Heâ€™ll show up today.â€™â€
Adds Oâ€™Donnell, â€œEach time we see a new Fiona, sheâ€™s more agitated waiting for her prince to come.â€
Oâ€™Donnell has been waiting for her Broadway debut for years. A veteran of local youth theater, the American Girls Revue and the 30th anniversary tour of â€œAnnie,â€ she has played venues all across the country, including Madison Square Garden.
But not Broadway.
Moore says Oâ€™Donnell stood out from the hundreds of young actresses he read for the role.
â€œShe reminded me of Sutton before she sang any of the material,â€ he says. â€œShe came in and sheâ€™s tall and she has a big smile and she owns her body. She was funny, quite smart and sweet, but not taking any crap from anybody, without being pretentious.
â€œShe has that star special quality. You really want to watch every nuance of what sheâ€™s doing when sheâ€™s onstage.â€
Brian dâ€™Arcy James, who plays Shrek, has been watching from the wings, and he likes what he has seen.
â€œMarissa has a real quiet strength about her,â€ dâ€™Arcy James says. â€œâ€˜Poiseâ€™ is the word that comes to mind. I watch her every night sing her song because I make my entrance right after â€˜I Know Itâ€™s Today.â€™ And it looks like sheâ€™s been doing this for 20 years.
â€œIâ€™m really impressed by her and Leah and Keaton as well.â€
The 14-year-old Oâ€™Donnell says sheâ€™s thrilled to be making her Broadway debut at last.
â€œEver since I was little, this is what I wanted to do. Iâ€™ve wanted to be on Broadway. Itâ€™s the most amazing feeling to have it happen. Now I can say I reached my goal.â€
Photo by Joan Marcus:Â Keaton Whittaker as Young Fiona, left, Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona, center, and Westchesterâ€™s Marissa Oâ€™Donnell as Teen Fiona in the Broadway-bound production of â€œShrek the Musical.â€