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December 2014 - Let Us Entertain You: Shrek the Musical

I'm a believer! When I heard that Broadway would be looking to Shrek to make a musical, I didn't bark at the idea. Shrek the musical, based on the Oscar® winning DreamWorks film that started it all, brings the hilarious story of everyone's favorite ogre to dazzling new life on the stage. In a faraway kingdom turned upside down, things get ugly when an unseemly ogre—not a handsome prince—shows up to rescue a feisty princess. Throw a chatty donkey, a bad guy with a SHORT temper, a cookie with an attitude and over a dozen other fairy tale misfits, and you've got the kind of mess that calls for a real hero. Luckily, there's one on hand...his name is Shrek. Musical Theater Southwest is bringing this lively musical to Albuquerque this December to the African American Performing Arts Center at the Expo New Mexico Fairgrounds. During a season filled of Christmas plays, musicals and dance performances, Co-Director Warren Wilgus likes the challenge of bringing Shrek the Musical to the Albuquerque stage. "There are a lot of Christmas opportunities this time of year. There's White Christmas, different Christmas Carol takes, The Nutcracker and so forth. This is across the board anyone that likes to have a good time, it's family friendly. If you have little ones, bring them on down. If Christmas isn't your thing, most people are into family at least." Co-Director and wife, Courtney Wilgus continued "You're going to laugh and surprisingly, you're going to cry. This show has got a beautiful message of being comfortable with yourself and realizing how much potential and what a wonderful person you can yourself and that you be that way all along whether you realize it or not.

When it came to the lead roles, the stars, Bryan Durden, Janine O'Neill and Hasani Olujimi were excited and humbled to take on the famous characters. "It wasn't until I got it that I realized that this was kind of a big thing," says Durden. "Shrek is such a known character. You really have to have an understanding of who this character is. It's kind of nerve-wracking, but it's been a lot of fun.

"It's a dream come true," says O'Neill. "I have to remind myself, 'I actually get to play a princess. I'm a princess!' Never dreamed that I would get the role of the princess and it's a love interest role, I usually get to play silly blonde, so it's a step up!"

Olujimi was convinced that Musical Theater Southwest knew his voice by heart from the multitude of times he called the theater asking about the auditions. But was excited when he was given the role. "When I was offered the role, it was the day after my birthday and I thought to myself 'What a wonderful gift this is!' After being in the Wiz and finding my courage in that play, becoming a principle is a very huge step and I am very honored by it."

With a cast of 38, Shrek the Musical will be an musical extravaganza with songs like Who I Be, What's a Duloc?, Mornin' Person which includes a tap dance. "Throughout the show there's just so much layering, on top of everything, from start to finish," says Wilgus. So, in other words - this show is like an onion!

When it came to sum up the show in one word, it came right back to family. "We had our own challenges and working through them we have become our own family." Shrek the Musical will run from December 12th until December 28th.

tWitch Cover Story
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