A couple of ogres, a donkey, a dragon and a forest full of fairy-tale creatures will take to the stage at Rye Neck High School in “Shrek the Musical” (7 p.m., Feb. 27 and 28; 1 p.m., March 1).
Mikael Bucknavage plays the green title character, an ogre who’d just as soon be left alone, thank you very much.
“Shrek is very different than I,” the 16-year-old junior says. “I’m kind of meek, so it’s a big adjustment. But it’s really fun to just be someone else. It’s interesting. And Shrek has this puppy-dog layer deep down which I like to let out every once in a while. Normally, I have to be a big ugly ogre, but he’s really a teddy bear.”
For every Shrek there is a Fiona, a princess in a tower who is not what she appears to be.
Both characters, it turns out, were wounded as children, abandoned, a revelation that comes in one of the show’s more comical, if vulgar songs, “I Got You Beat.” (Think of it as a 21st century version of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” with bodily functions thrown in for good measure.)
“It’s pretty ridiculous — we can just have fun — but we still make a connection,” Bucknavage says.
“Fiona has a lot of mood swings, she’s kind of bipolar, she even says it,” says junior Maite Elias-Nava, who plays the secretive princess. “Her character comes out in her songs, more than her lines. In her lines, she’s formal, trying to impress the man she’ll marry. But she’s crazy, she’s insane. She goes from being happy and peppy to very enraged very quickly.”
Playing the formal Fiona is harder.
“It’s more natural to play after they’ve made the connection, because she’s less formal, more goofy. And I’m more goofy, so it’s a better fit for me.”
Justin Sturgis plays Donkey, Shrek’s sidekick who has to win the ogre over. In rehearsal, Sturgis, a freshman, goes all out, in full character: playful, funny and, well, appropriately annoying.
Six-foot-tall junior Kevin Hassenfratz plays the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad, who loves to hear himself talk
Producer Scott Harris, choreographer Tricia Arenson and director Steve Loftus fill the Rye Neck stage with 137 cast members, more than a quarter of the student body.
Loftus acknowledges that with a huge cast and the technical and costume requirements, it’s another big show at Rye Neck, following “Beauty and the Beast” and last year’s “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“But it’s how we do things here,” Loftus says. “If it’s too easy, then it’s not the right thing for us.”
“Every element of this show is big. And it’s a different type of casting, with three leads but a large number of supporting characters that have major parts. The casting requirements are insane on this show.”
One of those supporting characters is freshman Rachel Wurzburger, 14, who plays the Gingerbread Man, known as “Gingy,” a puppet-like creature. Wurzburger works the puppet and gives Gingy a voice you have to hear to appreciate. Listen to the Running Lines video I shot at Rye Neck. Enjoy.