Shrek the Musical draws hundreds to Garnavillo

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Shrek the Musical, directed by Michelle Fassbinder and Adam Radcliffe, drew an overwhelming crowd on opening night. From left are Amber Anderegg as one of the three little pigs, Janelle Burr as Gingy, Blake Bolsinger as Shrek, Eric Ihde as Papa Ogre, Anna Berns as Princess Fiona, Dustin Kelly as the bishop, and Levi Berns as Pinocchio. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Opening night of Shrek the Musical at the Clayton Ridge middle school auditorium played to a house packed with excitement, talent, and a very large crowd. The 262 seats in the auditorium were full, and additional seating made room for a total of about 280 in the audience. “Friday and Sunday were the biggest crowds I’ve had since being at Clayton Ridge,” said director Adam Radcliff. “We were very, very happy with the support and attendance from the families, community members, and out-of-towners!” 

Rehearsals for the high school musical began over 10 weeks ago. The four performances during the weekend of April 17 and the dress rehearsal the week before drew an estimated 1000 people to see Shrek the Musical. “We loved it!  Big audiences really get the kids pumped up and they do an even better job,” director Michelle Fassbinder told The Press. Junior Blake Bolsinger starred as Shrek, an ogre sent away from home at seven years old according to ogre tradition. In a Scottish brogue, Bolsinger sang and danced, according to some of his lyrics, as the face that launched 1000 insults. 

Junior Alex Simon played Shrek’s trusty sidekick, a donkey named Donkey. In full makeup, padded donkey suit, and wearing hooves on his hands and feet, Simon’s flashing eyes and dramatic and often frantic gesturing drew many chuckles from the audience. 

As the story goes, Donkey follows Shrek on a journey to save the fiery-haired Princess Fiona, played by senior Anna Berns, from her castle prison and deliver her to Lord Farquaad, a discriminatory figurehead who, in his efforts to be crowned king, has banished all the fairy tale ‘freaks’ to live in Shrek’s swamp. Senior Trevor Heying spent his entire performance as Farquaad on his knees, costumed in a black wig, red cape, and two tiny legs with boots that clip-clopped as the dwarf-in-denial paced around the stage.

“Our cast… Wow! What can I say? It seemed like each part was written with that student in mind: Shrek (Blake Bolsinger), Donkey (Alex Simon), Fiona (Anna Berns), Lord Farquaad (Trevor Heying), Gingy, (Janelle Burr), and the rest of the cast fit perfectly into their characters,” Fassbinder said. “We have such great talent here. Even when our seniors graduate, those students coming up from the middle school seem to blend right in.”

Sixth grader Henry Scherer played the singing role of young Shrek. Sixth grader Kayla Kelly sang with confidence as a young Fiona, first imprisoned at age seven, full of hope for the day she’d be rescued by a prince like the many princesses in her books of fairy tales. In a melodic transformation, Kelly as young Fiona becomes Sophia Berns, freshman and sister of Anna Berns, as a still optimistic teenaged princess, and finally Anna Berns ascends to the tower as an adult Fiona – distinctly more frustrated with the fairy tales of her youth, but still positive that today is the day she’ll be rescued. 

A third Berns sibling, sophomore Levi, played Pinocchio, leader of fairy tale creatures like three blind mice, the Big Bad Wolf, Humpty Dumpty, and three little pigs, whose condos have been blown down by the undersized Lord Farquaad. Janelle Burr donned a larger-than-life cookie costume to play the role of Gingy, the squeaky gingerbread cookie tortured by Farquaad for information about Fiona’s whereabouts. 

The characters in the play must all come to terms with their realities, which are not the fairy tale endings they expect. In the end, the fairy tale creatures celebrate their quirks and Shrek sings, “You’ve never read a book like this, but fairy tales should really be updated.”

The musical’s impressive set and props included a tower, a wooden shack, a life-sized wooden horse, and a purple dragon with blinking eyes and moving jaws operated by five actors. “The three weekends before the performances were designated for set building,” said Fassbinder. “Just set and prop design alone took James, Adam, and myself over 100 hours to complete.” Radcliffe and Fassbinder's husband, James, built the majority of the set while she worked on handmade props and Radcliffe took care of the dragon, costumes, and other props rented from a theater production company in Wisconsin. Senior Carly Andregg painted the horse.  

“I cannot say enough good things about these students!  Most of them are involved in track, golf, speech contest, music contests, church activities, jobs, and many more activities, and still managed to put 100% into this show,” said Radcliffe, noting that Shrek is a difficult musical, yet the students excelled in every way and made this one of his favorite Clayton Ridge performances. “I am so proud to have been a part of their experience, and cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of them!” 

Fassbinder adds, “We have an incredible talent pool at CRHS, and we anticipate putting on great productions in the future that will be attended by large audiences such as those this past weekend.”

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