Megan Sutton says that when she saw Lynden Performing Arts Guild was presenting “Shrek: The Musical,” it was a no-brainer for her to audition.
“Fiona has been one of my favorite and most coveted roles for many years,” she says.
It may be appropriate that one the songs Fiona sings is “I Know It’s Today.”
The musical, based on the well-known 2001 movie, opens Thursday, June 11, and runs through June 28 at Claire vg Thomas Theatre at Dutch Village Mall.
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A fan of both the stage musical and the movie, Sutton says she drew inspiration from the musical for Fiona’s character development, particularly from Sutton Foster, the original Fiona in the musical.
“There is an apparent duality to Fiona’s personality; the sweet, charming princess that is found in stories, and the brash and bold maiden who has been locked away in a tower for years on end,” Sutton says. “You get to see a little more about Fiona’s history in the musical, which gave fantastic insight into her story.”
Kaleb Van Rijswijck, a 2013 graduate of Bellingham High School, comes back to Whatcom County from his studies at Chicago’s Roosevelt University to direct the musical.
“I’m so incredibly excited to show Whatcom County this production,” he says.
Van Rijswijck was active in the Whatcom County theater scene before he left for university. He directed “The Music Man” and “High School Musical” at Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth, and played the lead role of Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors” there, among other roles. He also directed the controversial “Spring Awakening” with State Street Studio Theatre at Bellingham High School, and he played the role of Jack in “Into the Woods” at Mount Baker Theatre.
“’Shrek’ is an energetic, hilarious, touching show that has so much heart,” Van Rijswijck says. “It has been a great pleasure working with such a committed cast and company who has put together this massive show in a short amount of time.”
In addition, his brother, Konner Van Rijswijck, is assistant director for the musical.
Jerimy Saldivar, who plays the title role, says his four children were excited to audition for the show, and he went with them to see how they did.
“While I was sitting there filling out their audition forms, I decided to have some fun with them and jump on stage as well to help them not feel as nervous,” he says. “I also thought it might be fun to have a small part to hang out with them as the schedule would have them be there five nights a week. It ended up being a tad larger part than I had anticipated.”
When playing the lead, he says the immediate trait of Shrek that jumps out seems to be his accent.
“That was the first decision I needed to make; was this going to be an imitation of Mike Myers or should the focus be more on the character?”
While the voice is important, he says trying to go full-Mike-Myers would feel too much like a karaoke performance, so instead he focused on “why we all love Shrek.”
“He is big, green and funny, but it is really his vulnerability that makes you identify with him and cheer for him in the end,” saldivar says. “It has been tough to not play the part too angry, but rather to work in a sweetness that comes from a character that’s been hurt his whole life but really wants to have some sort of connection.
“Shrek’s character is almost more shown in the ‘beats and reactions’ to others instead of his actual spoken lines. That has been fun to play with.”
Alex Swanson, who plays the Donkey, says someone came up to him before the day of audition call-backs and said he “needed” to do the musical.
“I hadn’t planned on it originally because of my busy schedule, but sure enough the next day I showed up and auditioned for the role of donkey, and I’m so happy I did,” he says. “Donkey is as spunky as anyone can get, and has been so much fun to act. He is hilarious and so happy to have a friend like Shrek, even though he smells really bad. Never in a bad mood. I’d like to believe I have a little Donkey in me.”
The actors agree the production is appropriate for all ages, especially because children are familiar with the characters. It’s a high-energy production, with lots of music, dancing and spectacle, plus costumes, sets, and crazy choreography.
“Who doesn’t want to see tap-dancing rats?” asks Van Rijswijck.