“This is the Broadway version of the movie,” said Lily Baran, who played Donkey as well as directed the stage show. “We had a choreographer come from the traveling production of Shrek the Musical and he taught this great workshop. We learned all the musical numbers and choreography and thought that we had some great material and people. So, now we’re here.”
This version of Shrek explains how Shrek became the grumpy ogre everyone knows him as.
“When you’re an ogre, you get kicked out when you’re seven,” said Baran. “So, Shrek goes away to his place in the swamp.”
But this rendition doesn’t sway too far from Dreamworks’ version nor the picture book the films are based off of.
“If anything, we have more storybook characters in this show,” said Baran. “We still have all the characters you know and love from the movies. We say a lot of the same lines that we say in the movie, like when Gingy, the Gingerbread Man, begs Lord Farquaad not to touch his gumdrop buttons. We have some of the same songs, too, like “’I’m a Believer.’”
Caleb Dixon played Shrek with his shaved head painted green and speaking in a thick Scottish accent. In the Shrek films, Shrek was voiced my Mike Myers.
“Shrek is a rough, big ogre who eventually goes soft,” said Dixon. “You realized that he was been trying to protect himself his whole life until he meets Donkey. You see a connection growing between them.”
This is Dixon’s sixth year performing with the Tahoe Players. In his past performances, Dixon played Monsiuer Thenardiers in this summer’s production of Les Miserables, as well as Gaston in the Tahoe Players’ version of Beauty and the Beast.
“It was been such an honor working with Tahoe Players,” said Dixon. “I’m grown so much as an actor. I’m happy that we’re doing these performances for the schools. It’s important to keep the arts going.”
Baran ran around the stage in a full donkey costume, with hoofs and all, singing with a deep baritone voice.
“It’s hard trying to be a boy,” said Baran about the role of Donkey, who is usually played by a man. Donkey was voiced by Eddie Murphy in the films.
“I worked really hard on my Eddie Murphy impression,” Baran said. “I watched a lot of Chris Rock and Richard Pryor stand-up, trying to get the voice right. There is a part in the show where I need to sing deeply, like Barry White. I listen to of lot of him, trying to work on getting that low note.”
Baran spent about a half hour in make-up, getting Donkey’s look just right.
“I’ve grown fond of Donkey,” said Baran. “I’ve actually gone out with my face like this. I went to Roxy’s in the Eldorado Wednesday night. People came up to me, asking about my face and I told them that I’m Donkey in Shrek. It was a good promotional tool.”
Maureen Kelly played Princess Fiona, who was voiced by Cameron Diaz in the films.
“We see Fiona’s back story,” said Kelly. “She spends 8,423 days in the castle, impatient, waiting for her Prince Charming to show up. But of course, Shrek comes to rescue her instead.”
Princess Fiona turned into an ogre halfway through the performance and wept about losing her good looks. However, she and Shrek eventually fell in love and live happily every after at the end of musical.
“Fiona realizes that feelings are more important than beauty,” said Kelly. “I think that’s a really strong message, especially to tell kids now.”
Kelly’s three-year-old son played Baby Shrek in the beginning of the musical.
“We have families that participate in the show and we want families to come and watch,” said Baran. “The show is funny for both adults and kids.
The play is choreographed by Leah Pivarotto, who was originally trained by Abby Lee Miller, the dance instructor from Lifetime’s “Dance Moms.” A twelve-piece orchestra, sponsored by the Music Performance Fund, accompanied the acting with music.
With the announcement of the Nugget being sold, Baran was worried for a moment about the performance space but that concern has subsided.
“The Nugget has been supportive with everything. Whatever we want, they get it for us,” said Baran. “The new owner seems to have that same spirit and mentioned renovating the theatre which would be nice.”
The Tahoe Player will continue to perform at the Nugget and are excited about the announcement of next year’s newest performance.
“I can’t give much away right now,” said Baran. “But it’s a musical named after a popular brand of meat in a tin can.”
For more information about the Tahoe Players, visit www.tahoeplayers.org.