Forty-four East Valley actors, singers and dancers and one intrepid thespian from Tucson culminate three weeks of intensive daily rehearsals with the full-stage production of “Shrek the Musical, Jr.” at two performances this weekend at Mountain Pointe High School ‘s Fine Art Theater.
The Saturday, June 23, matinee and evening shows feature actors, singers and dancers ages 6 to 18 in the musical drawn from the 2001 Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, and the Broadway production that ran from 2008-2010.
This is the fourth annual summer musical production by Ahwatukee’s Dance Studio 111 Musical Theater Company and features a cast of actors and dancers from Ahwatukee, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert and Tucson.
Director Jenefer Miller and musical director Rachal Bautista are in their fourth year with the company, having been involved in the three previous successful musicals: “Wizard of Oz,” “Beauty and the Beast” and last summer’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Miller is a Desert Vista High School English teacher and a professional dancer who also teaches tap at Dance Studio 111. Bautista heads RLS Music Studio, located in Dance Studio 111.
Many cast members have appeared in other Dance Studio 111 plays and productions.
The four principal actors are Adam Snyder, a Corona del Sol High School junior, as the lovable ogre Shrek; Mario Clayton of NFL Yet College Prep Leadership Academy as Donkey; Elisabeth Fear, a sophomore at Ahwatukee’s Horizon Honors Secondary as Fiona, and Ryan Sadowsky, a sophomore at Tucson’s Catalina Foothills High School as Lord Farquaad.
It is the first Studio 111 Theater Group appearance for each of the lead actors.
Adam, who has acted in various productions in the Valley since age 5, is excited to be appearing in his first musical with the Ahwatukee-based troupe.
“This is my first time performing with Studio 111 and so far it has been an absolute blast,” said Synder, 16. “‘Shrek’ is such an amazing show, though at first it was hard for me to play a character who is angry and mean, but with help from the amazing directors, the part felt natural to me.”
Mario rules the role of Shrek’s wise-cracking sidekick, Donkey.
He said that although it’s his first role with this company, he’s been involved in other stage productions and has been singing since he was 5.
“Characters like mine bring the comedy into this twisted romance story. And I think the best part of my role is being really interactive with the whole cast, and always being joyful and jubilant,” he said.
For Elisabeth, 15, the part of Fiona is a continuation of her passion for singing and acting. She is active in theater, dance and choir at the village’s Horizon Honors High School and takes voice lessons from Anna-Lisa Hacket at Ahwatukee’s RLS Music Studio.
“This is a fun role,” Elisabeth said. “I love the quirkiness of Fiona, who at first appears to be the typical princess, but she’s also an ogress, which makes her much more interesting. I also love the music for this musical. Every song is really fun.”
The Fiona role also requires some quick-change artistry.
“As you can imagine, makeup is quite involved for this musical. Initially, it takes about an hour to get ready for the show. However, there is a scene where Fiona must transform from princess to ogress in a very short amount of time. It takes an entire team of people under the direction of makeup artist Samantha Ordaz working very quickly to pull this off. I am very grateful for everyone’s help.”
Playing the part of the pint-size Lord Farquaad is quite a stretch for Tucson’s Ryan Sadowsky, who in reality is 5-foot-10.”
“The most fun part of playing Lord Farquaad is the outrageous and flamboyant character that he is,” the 14-year-old said. “The most challenging is having to play this character on my knees as I’m rather tall.”
Sadowsky is a working actor who’s appeared in national commercials, danced and rapped in the Spike Lee’s Netflix Original “She’s Gotta Have It” and appeared in several movies. He is a contestant on ABC’s Season 2 of the “Gong Show,” airing June 21.
“I remember as a younger child watching ‘Shrek’ over and over,” said Ryan. “I’m a big fan of the movie, and I recently watched the Broadway musical. It’s such a fun movie that has many good messages. “
Every weekday for three weeks, he and his mother, Shelley, drive an hour and 20 minutes each way to attend the rehearsals.
His mother explained why she’s happy to drive her son the 91 miles to and from Ahwatukee: “We love the atmosphere and the high-quality shows produced by Studio 111 Theater Company run by Kimberly (Lewis). The directors, Jenefer and Rachel, provide a fun environment where the kids love to learn and develop their character.”
Identical 12-year-old triplets Magdalena, Marissa and Maryann Frieberg are performing as Knights in the musical. The eighth-graders are joined in this production by their older sister Maliza, 13. All are trained in voice, and are otherwise musically involved.
As four of 15 children of Edward and Diana Frieberg, the girls are encouraged to immerse themselves in the three-weeks of rehearsals and the two stage performances.
“The value of being in a month-long production teaches them teamwork, project completion, social skills, and they enjoy being on stage,” said their mother. “It also helps to keep them out of trouble and is a self-esteem booster. They can experience a sense of achievement when they perfect their performance.”
For Kimberly Lewis, owner of Dance Studio 111 and Dance Studio Theater Company, this fourth annual summer musical is another opportunity to shine a spotlight on local young talent.
“There are so many young talented dancers, singers and actors that work so hard at their crafts that they want to be able to show their talents and the way to do this is to do it onstage in a live performance,” she said.
To keep the production affordable for families, tickets start at $10.
“We need our community to come support these young people who have given up their month of June vacation to do this. And it’s great entertainment for the family in a cool, air-conditioned theater. And, it’s such a feel-good production with great sets and costumes, I know it will be fun for the whole family,” Lewis said.
This year’s full-stage production set and prop designer is Megan Gardner, who is also teaching a Theater Camp at Dance Studio 111 June 25-29.
The Saturday, June 23, matinee is at 2 p.m. and the evening performance is at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available at Tututix.com/Studio111 TheaterCo. If there are tickets remaining, they will be sold at the MPHS theater box office one hour before the matinee and evening productions.