North Farmington takes ‘Shrek’ from big screen to stage

A troupe of North Farmington High actors who grew up watching the movie “Shrek” will bring those childhood memories to life later this month in a production of “Shrek the Musical”.

On stage March 23-25 at the Cobb Center for the Performing Arts, the tale of an ogre, his four-legged sidekick, Donkey, and beloved Princess Fiona reflects a decision to produce light, fun shows this season.

“This year was all about trying to do fun things on stage,” said Sean McGuckin, who directs the show. “It’s fun for the kids to have the opportunity to be campy and a little goofy.”

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Matthew Swarthout, left, and Daniel Isabella, right, play Donkey and Shrek, respectively.
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Jordan Gagnon plays Princess Fiona.

Daniel Isabella, who plays the title role, said the musical is similar to the movie “with a little extra Broadway pizazz.” He’s making his own costume, shopping for extra-large t-shirts and other clothing at local Salvation Army stores and customizing a fat suit to get just the right build. Inserts in his shoes will make him taller, and prosthetics and make-up will complete the picture.

As the sidekick “Donkey,” Swarthout will also have elaborate makeup. He said his character is very flamboyant, so he plays Donkey larger than life.

“I’ve never played a character that is so active,” he said. “He moves quickly from one end of the stage to the other.”

Coincidentally, Jordan Gagnon, who plays Princess Fiona, was featured in the Sky’s the Limit Productions version of the show in her freshman year. Cast as Donkey then, she said doing the North Farmington show is like “coming full circle.”

While Fiona has a more princess-like demeanor in the movie, she is “a lot more quirky and genuinely bizarre” on stage.

“Over the past three years, we’ve done some serious shows,” Gagnon said. “This one is very silly and much more kid-friendly. I’m really excited.”

“Shrek the Musical” isn’t only about having fun, Swarthout said. One song, “Freak Flag”, is all about “accepting everyone the way they are.”

“And even a big, ugly ogre can be the hero of his own story,” Isabella added.

Performances of “Shrek the Musical” are Thursday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 25, at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All seats are reserved. Adults are $15. Students and seniors 60 and older are $12.

New this year, tickets are available online by visiting showtix4u.com and clicking “Buy Tickets” or following the link in the Upcoming Events section at facebook.com/NFTheatre — where you’ll also find show publicity and early rehearsal photos. Tickets will also be available at the door, with the box office opening at least an hour before the shows.

North Farmington High is located at 32900 W. 13 Mile Rd. in Farmington Hills.

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