Slideshow: Shrek the Musical will open on Friday

All photos by Bryan Haeffle

All parents should be on their guard. Rumor has it a gigantic green ogre — hired by the Wilton Children’s Theater — will be showing his face around town next week.

The monster — who shares a name with a memorable DreamWorks character of the same color — will be part of the Children’s Theater’s fall musical, Shrek, which will take place on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7:30, Saturday, Nov. 23, at 4, and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 2.

Wendy Corper, the head producer for the musical, said by phone on Monday it will be a “fun and upbeat show. The music is great, and the costumes are really bright and vibrant.”

With a team of three theater professionals — a director, a choreographer, and a musical director — she said the production level of the event is truly “amazing.”

“The shows we put on — that are done with fourth to eighth graders — are amazing shows. It’s amazing what these kids can do, they’re really talented. The costumes, the sets, the makeup are all great. It’s going to be really fun.  Any kid 3 years old and up would enjoy this show.”

The show is directed by Skip Ploss, and Jerold Goldstein is the musical director. Judy Abbatiello is choreographer and Andy Knapp handles set design. The costumes are by Sharon Burke and Gina Janson and the sets are the work of Callie Mellana and Melissa Elmasry.

The Wilton Children’s Theater is a way for area students to get involved with a theater production before they enter high school. It is open to children in grades four to eight, and those of all experience and skill level, Ms. Corper said.

For her son, it was a great way to find friends throughout the four years he has participated.

“It’s a great opportunity. There is such a great feeling of camaraderie that comes along with it,” she said. “Even if you don’t have a big part, it’s such a satisfying experience. To see what these kids can do in 10 weeks is amazing. My son gained great friendships because it’s the same group of girls and boys that have been doing it for years.”

Rachel Strazza, an eighth grader who will be playing Teen Fiona in the show, said she began with Wilton Children’s Theater because she “absolutely loves to sing and dance.”

Now, she said, she enjoys performing in front of an audience even more.

“When I’m on stage and I look out at the audience and see all those people waiting for me to perform, its amazing. I just love that feeling,” she said.

Both Rachel and Luke Mahoney, an eighth grade theater student who plays Shrek, said the Wilton Children’s Theater has prepared them to move up in the world of Wilton theater.

“I’m going to miss Children’s Theater,” Rachel said, “but I’m really excited to start high school theater. I was the lead in Beauty and the Beast as Belle last year. That really helped me with the audition process, and with the nerves of being on stage as a lead.”

“But,” she added coyly, “I got over that really quick.”

A wide range of students enjoy participating in the shows, Ms. Corper said, from athletes to dancers to singers. The only hard part, she said, is helping fit three rehearsals a week into their busy schedules.

There are 53 cast members in Shrek. Along with Luke, children playing lead parts include Finn Maloney as Donkey, Anna-Maria Onnerud as Fiona, Taylor Burke as Gingy, Connor Allen as Pinocchio, and Trevor Brown as Farquaad.

“There are a lot of kids here that have never done this before,” she said. “Fiona [played by Anna-Maria] just moved to town. It’s not exclusive. There is a core group that’s gone through, but they’ve all started at different times. Always a great experience for everybody. It’s a wide range of students. Our kids are athletes, students, they are everything.”

“We’re all really close,” said Rachel, “and I don’t think we would have been friends without Children’s Theater. We’re like a family on stage.”

Luke said he loves children’s theater for two big reasons.

“I got a lot of acting experience and all of my best friends were met here,” he said. “You’re all in the same group, so you find a lot in common with each other.”

For those boys worried about joining a musical theater group, Luke had a candid piece of advice.

“Well, the ratio of boys to girls is really good here, so you can meet a lot of people,” he said with a grin.