Though he had always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, eighth-grader Chase Lehman decided on a whim he’d try out for Middle School North’s spring musical.
“I’d done stage crew for the past three shows, but when I saw that this one was ‘Shrek,’ I thought I’d give it a shot,” Lehman said.
That’s how he landed his first-ever on-stage role — as the lead character.
“He’s been a mastermind behind the scenes for the last two years, and I was just so excited when he said that this was the year he wanted to see what was on the other side,” said director Karen Jaffe. “He’s just been amazing to work with. He’s such a talented kid.”
Lehman will be joined by more than 70 castmates for Middle School North’s production of “Shrek the Musical,” in which Lehman plays the part of Shrek — a bitter ogre whose life of solitude is interrupted when the minuscule Lord Farquaad, played by seventh-grader Jacob Sung, exiles all fairytale creatures from the Kingdom of Duloc, and they seek asylum at his swamp.
To get the fairytale creatures off his property, Shrek and an insistent Donkey, played by seventh-grader Ethan Humrichouser, must rescue of Princess Fiona, played by eighth-grader Emmi Connick, and bring her to the nefarious Farquaad, who hopes to marry her and become king.
The play is funny and colorful in every sense of the word.
Lehman and Humrichouser agreed audiences would most enjoy the impressively cartoonish sets and costumes that bring the play to life. Princess Fiona’s costume, for example, looks like it jumped out of the animated movie and onto eighth-grader Emmi Connick. Everything from her braided red hair to her green gown are precise.
Jaffe said that getting seventh-grader Jacob Sung to look as short as his character, Lord Farquaad, involved him kneeling. She believes his first appearance on-stage will get the biggest laughs from audiences.
More than costumes and sets, the cast’s personality and demeanor suit their individual characters well.
Humrichouser, like Donkey, is naturally upbeat and lively.
“I just love the whole characterization,” Humrichouser said. “It just feels so good to play donkey up on stage because all the songs are upbeat. I’m never down or serious. It’s just fun to not be serious.”
The difference between the musical and the DreamWorks film are the songs and some of the characters.
“It’s a little more in-depth,” Lehman said.
Fiona is represented as a child, teen and adult.
Maeve Griffin, a sixth-grader, plays the part of Young Fiona, who dreams of the day when a brave knight rescues her from the castle and the curse that enslave her, just as her storybooks tell her
“She has a lot of hope for herself and wants to live her life by the book, by these stories that make her feel like ‘that’s going to be me one day, and it’s going to be awesome!’” Griffin said.
The play, like the movie, will end with a popular song that everyone knows the words to, and the audience will be able to sing along with the cast as they run out into the audience.
“We want everybody in the house singing along with us. It will certainly be a highlight,” Jaffe said.