Shrek musical

The stage is set for 'Shrek, the Musical', which debuts Friday night at North Central Texas College in Gainesville.

North Central Texas College’s Drama program opens its summer production of “Shrek the Musical” Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the First State Bank Center for the Performing Arts on the NCTC campus.

“This is the first big production that we’ve done in this space since ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in 2019,” said Austin Creswell, one of the co-directors of the production. “We’re trying to elevate and get better each time we do a show … that’s the beauty of theatre, getting to play and do things and just have more fun with it each time.”

This is Creswell’s first time directing at NCTC, alongside long-time NCTC performing and visual arts chair Thom Talbott. Also on the directing team is the technical director and designer, Missy Embrey.

“It’s been a trip; I’m making all these massive pieces and going to all of these crazy places in this fairytale world,” said Embrey. “That’s been an adventure, but a lot of fun.”

“Shrek the Musical” is based on the Dreamworks Animation Motion Picture, creating an interesting dynamic in actors bringing to the stage characters people know and love, but also bringing their own take on the characters.

“One of the things that I think this show does really successfully is textually transition to the stage,” said Creswell, “because it keeps some of those characteristics and heart that people love about Shrek.”

“The actors make choices about if a line is directly from the movie, they’ll do it like that because everyone expects it and it is really well known,” explained Embrey. “But then to watch them making it their own; take for example Desmond [Pouncil] who is playing Donkey, it’s Desmond’s Donkey: you still get those wonderful hints of the things from the movie that you really loved about it, but he’s really taken it and made it his own.”

Just as the movie reached people of all ages, the cast and crew are hoping their production reaches people of all ages as well.

“The beautiful thing about ‘Shrek’ and most animated movies that are made for kids is that there is a lot more elevated and heightened humor that makes the show enjoyable for all ages, from someone who is 10 to someone who is 50, so it’s a show for all ages,” said Creswell. “We have a really awesome opportunity to cast all ages and include people from a vast variety of ages, which is a really cool dynamic to have included in the show.”

Along with “Shrek” being prevalent for people of all different ages, it also speaks to anyone who is still learning to be comfortable as they are.

“There’s something so special about ‘Shrek the Musical’ that not only does it apply to people of all ages, but it invites people of all creeds and everything to come and enjoy the story and embrace who they are,” said Creswell. “There’s one poignant moment in the show where they’re yearning to be something that they’re not, while still loving who they are, and it shows such a vulnerable moment about a struggle that everyone goes through in being comfortable in their own skin.”

In the spirit of the show and being proud to be unique, the cast and crew are doing a special Sensory Friendly run of the show for autistic individuals and others who may have difficulty with a full show.

“One of our colleagues here at the college, Dr. Rochelle Gregory, has done a lot of research in behavior and psychology of autism and people that do need sensory friendly things or might not be able to adhere to stereotypical theatre etiquette, and something that we really strive to do is make theatre accessible to people of all creeds and all ages,” explained Creswell. “We thought, coming back, now is a perfect time to implement this and create more accessibility for theatre. We’ve built into our season every show, or at least every show that is geared toward audiences of all ages, we are building in a sensory friendly performance for each, which has limited seating and amended lighting and sound.”

The sensory friendly performance is Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Other performances are Friday (today) and June 23-25 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee June 26. Visit http://nctc.universitytickets.com/ or call 940-668-3355 for tickets or more information.

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