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‘Don’t Be Afraid to be Different’

Alliance Summer Stars presents “Shrek the Musical.”

The show’s three leads with many of the Summer Stars actors before rehearsing the “Freak Flag” dance number.

The show’s three leads with many of the Summer Stars actors before rehearsing the “Freak Flag” dance number. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

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From left are Glynn Cosker, Jennifer LePaige and Devyn Tinker, who portray Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey, respectively.

A big green ogre, a princess, a wise-cracking donkey and a love-struck dragon – they’ll all be onstage when The Alliance Theatre’s Summer Stars program presents “Shrek the Musical.”

The cast and crew of nearly 100 have been working on the show since May and, when the curtain rises, they’ll be joined by a 13-piece pit orchestra.

Helming his fourth Alliance show, Director Scott Olson says things are going really well.

“I’ve got an insanely talented cast,” he said. “My leads are spot-on for their characters, and 30 members of our Summer Stars theater camp – from third through eighth grade – are in the show, too. They’re doing really high-level dances, tight choreography and even marching.”

Olson said special prosthetics were created to transform actors into ogres and fairytale characters, and the costumes and make-up will be “amazing,” as will the 26-foot-long, light-up, dragon puppet that exhales smoke. The scenes take place in a swampy forest, a castle, a dragon’s lair, a church and at Shrek’s house – an oversized tree stump.

There’s also a moral to the story. Said Olson: “This show’s about understanding and appreciating others’ differences and accepting and appreciating yourself for who you are.”

Playing Shrek is Oak Hill’s Glynn Cosker. “He’s an ogre who likes living by himself in a swamp,” said Cosker. “So he’s surprised to one day find dozens of fairytale creatures there. But he’s not immune to adventure. Yet when he falls in love with Fiona and forms a friendship with Donkey, you see a different side of him and learn that he actually has a big heart.”

Cosker’s been in 30 shows, but calls Shrek one of the most fun roles he’s ever played. “He’s such a big, full-of-life character,” said Cosker. “And the whole experience – working with the kids and seeing their reactions to Shrek – has been wonderful. It’s about 180 degrees from my own, nice and introverted personality. As Shrek, I do lots of yelling and screaming, so it’s quite therapeutic.”

His favorite song, which he sings, is “When Words Fail.” In it, said Cosker, “Shrek’s trying to get the courage to ask Fiona to spend time with him – and worrying what he’ll do if his words fail him. The song speaks to his humility as you see him shedding the ogre shell and becoming more human.”

Cosker said the audience will also enjoy the show’s energy and focus, plus the singers and dancers in the ensemble. “The choreography and costumes are awesome,” he said. “People will step into a different world for two hours and have a good time.”

Jennifer LePaige, who studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, portrays Princess Fiona. “She’s a sassy ball of fire, independent and a spitfire with her words,” said LePaige. “She just wants to find her true love; it’s her motivation for everything. She finds her storybook romance – which is different from what she expected – but turns out to be better than anything she’d wished for.”

As one of her “dream roles,” said LePaige, “I love it; I’ve wanted to play her forever. We have a lot of the same characteristics. In my daily life, I feel like I fit Fiona because we’re both strong women.”

She especially likes her song, “This is How a Dream Comes True,” because “It tells a lot of Fiona’s story quickly, and Shrek’s playing with the dragon while I sing. This show is so much fun and really brings the screenplay to life. The characters are loveable, we have a great cast and adults will love it as much as children will.”

Playing Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, is 2013 Chantilly High grad Devyn Tinker. “Donkey’s a free spirit, very talkative and energetic all the time, no matter how he’s feeling,” said Tinker. “He always questions the obvious so he can wrap his head around things. He’s also a little slow to get jokes. He starts out completely opposite of Shrek because he loves being around people.”

Tinker loves his role, too, because “I get to be energetic, with arms flailing all over the place. It’s just a lot of fun.” His favorite number is “Who I’d Be,” which Donkey sings with Shrek and Fiona. “We sing about whom each of us would be if we could just escape the dragon,” said Tinker. “We’re expressing our dreams and thinking about who we’d be in the future.”

He said the audience will like the show’s humor and “the fact that it’s based on a movie they already know. The music’s upbeat, there’s never a dull moment and the cast has a lot of chemistry.”

New Robinson Secondary grad Spencer Boyd, majoring in musical theater at JMU, portrays Lord Farquaad. “He’s the Lord of Duloc, but is constantly searching for power,” said Boyd. “He’s over-compensating for his short height, so he wants perfection. He’s banished all the fairytale creatures from his land because he only wants to rule over perfect people.”

However, the only way he can become king is by marrying a princess like Fiona. “He’s very proud and can be charming and charismatic,” said Boyd.

“But he’s also mean, strict and ill-tempered – and the subject of his height is off limits.”

“It’s great playing him because he’s just over-the-top with everything,” continued Boyd. “He has a regal air of royalty, but is touchy about his height, so he’s a very funny character to play.” But Since Boyd is actually tall in real life, he’ll be walking on his knees during the show to be short.

He especially likes the number, “What’s Up, Duloc?” which he sings. “It’s Farquaad’s entrance song, makes fun of other Broadway numbers and is very humorous,” said Boyd. Overall, he said, “This is a really funny, family-friendly show with a great message – let your freak flag fly and don’t be afraid to be different. And it’ll be really enjoyable to watch.”