"Shrek the Musical!" will be performed this spring on Eastern Mennonite University's Thomas Plaza. The original performances slated for last spring (the photo of Donkey, Shrek and Fiona is from that production) were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current production, with actors and audience masked and socially distanced, has already sold out the two performances open to the general public. The April 10 and 17 performances have seats available to EMU students, faculty, staff and parents of production members. (Photo by Macson McGuigan)

‘Shrek the Musical!’ returns – to the outdoor stage

“Shrek the Musical!” makes a triumphant comeback as Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) first in-person arts event open to the public since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Four outdoor, socially distanced performances will be held on two consecutive weekends. The Saturday performances, April 10 and April 17, are open to faculty, staff, students and parents.

The Friday performances for the general public on April 9 and 16 are sold out.

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thomas Plaza.

Visit https://emu.edu/box-office/ to make your free reservation. All audience members are required to wear masks and to physically distance while congregated on EMU grounds. Additional Covid safety measures are also in place and will be communicated to our patrons upon arrival. Please bring a lawn chair or blanket for your own outdoor seating.

“As you watch our zany, high energy, and off-beat production, have fun. Also, ask yourself how you can more fully embrace your neighbor,” said Professor Justin Poole, director of the musical.

The production, which includes a large cast of EMU students from across all majors and some community members as well, is based on the popular DreamWorks animated films.

“Shrek the Musical!” was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, with music by Tony Award winner Jeanine Tesori. The Broadway show received eight Tony nominations, including Best Musical. EMU Theater had originally staged the show last year, until COVID-19 wreaked havoc on live performances everywhere. 

Poole brought back some of the original cast, added a few newcomers, and re-choreographed the show as a COVID-safe, outdoor extravaganza. 

“It is the largest stationary stage area I have ever worked on, which has been a blast as a director,” he said. “The actors have so much ground to cover and they do it with huge, bombastic movements that make the whole piece feel like a living cartoon. It’s so much fun!”

Junior Joe Seitz returns to the show as the iconic wisecracker “Donkey.” 

“After a year with no theater, I think both the cast and the community are thoroughly excited to finally be back at it,” Seitz said. “Every person involved with this show is bringing so much energy and I think this is one of the most fun shows we’ve put on in years.”

Sarah Regan ’18 has had her hands full, as she’s both running the box office and acting in the show. Regan is the assistant director of auxiliary services when she’s not playing “Thelonius” and “Mama Elf.” In preparation for a public health-conscious show, Regan used photos and measurements of the front lawn to create a seating layout that will safely accommodate 200 people. 

“Shrek has been an incredible source of life for me in the past year, as I believe it has been for so many of our cast and crew,” Regan said. “We’re hoping that this show can be a gift to the community after a long hard year full of disappointments.”

For live theater aficionados who were not fast enough to the box office to see this spring’s production, Poole says the theater department has already laid plans for next season: “We are hitting the ground running with an exciting, action-packed theater season featuring two original shows and EMU’s first fully staged opera!”

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