‘Shrek: The Musical’ opens at SPHS this weekend

SOUTH PORTLAND – The story of a soft-hearted, green ogre who finds love and adventure with the help of a whole horde of fairy tale creatures and a wise-cracking talking donkey will take the stage at South Portland High School on Friday, March. 21.

“Shrek: The Musical,” which is based on the animated film of the same name, has something for everyone, according to director Steve Filieo, including a great score and a positive message.

Filieo said he and his wife, Jane, who co-directs the annual musical at South Portland High School, chose “Shrek” after holding auditions in the fall. As usual, the show features a large cast, of about 50, and a mix of student and professional musicians in the pit.

Filieo admitted that “Shrek” is a “very ambitious show” for a high school production. Some of the challenges include creating a prosthetic ogre costume and mask for Shrek, who is played by junior AJ Goudreau.

In addition, there is a fire-breathing dragon, a castle and multiple fairy tale character costumes and make-up that must all be just right. Filieo said the dragon would actually be a puppet controlled by four puppeteers.

That’s why Filieo is so thankful to have “an incredible group of parents and even grandparents working on costumes” and the intricate sets for the show, which also includes Shrek’s home swamp.

“Shrek: The Musical” opened on Broadway in 2008 and includes a score featuring 19 new songs. The website for the touring show calls “Shrek” a tale of “part romance, part twisted fairy tale and all irreverent fun.”

This is the 25th year that Steve and Jane Filieo have directed the spring musical at South Portland High School, and Steve said what keeps them coming back year after year is the “energy and enthusiasm that comes from the kids.”

He added, “Working with the kids is very gratifying both artistically and personally. I would also say that the performances by this cast would rival a show in any professional theater.”

Filieo said that although the annual spring musical is a “community event” in South Portland, it also draws audiences from all across southern Maine.

And he guarantees that attendees will “just fall in love with the music and the characters” just as he did.

Emma Kane, who plays Princess Fiona, and Shrek’s love interest, said this is one of her favorite shows. A senior, Kane was also in the cast of both “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Les Miserables.”

She and Goudreau admit to being surprised that the Filieos chose “Shrek” for this year’s musical, but Kane said, “I love it. This show is so funny and a nice change of pace.”

But, she added, it also has some of the best musical theater songs “I’ve heard in awhile. As soon as I knew what show we were doing, I googled all the songs. The songs in this show tug at the heart strings.”

Ethan Benevides, another senior, plays Lord Farquaad, the evil ruler of Duloc, who attempts to rid the kingdom of all the fairy tale creatures and to wed Fiona so that he can be king.

Like Kane, Benevides is thrilled to be doing a comedy after all the heavily dramatic shows of the past couple years. “This show is very different and really funny,” he said.

Despite the very hot ogre costume and mask he must wear, Goudreau said he really likes playing Shrek. “It’s fun, I like it a lot. But I have to say I was not expecting this show.”

James Falconer, a junior, plays the donkey and will have to speak and sing through a special donkey head. However, he said playing the donkey is great. “I love having all these funny lines and making people laugh.”

What he also likes about “Shrek” is that since it was a movie first, many people are already familiar with the story line and they already identify with Shrek’s journey.

“It’s going to be really good,” Falconer said when asked why people should attend. And Kane added, “This is really a show for all ages. Little kids will love it, but there are also lines for older people. This show has a great message that everyone can relate to.”

A closer look

“Shrek: The Musical” opens at South Portland High School on Friday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Additional show times are:

• Saturday, March 22 – 2 and 7:30 p.m.

• Sunday, March 23 – 2 p.m.

• Friday, March 28 – 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, March 29 – 2 and 7:30 p.m.

• Sunday, March 30 – 2 p.m.

Opening night for “Shrek: The Musical” at South Portland High School is on Friday, March 21. Playing the leads are, from left, Emma Kane, Ethan Benevides, AJ Goudreau and James Falconer. Staff photo by Kate Irish Collins