The big green guy with the Scottish accent gets the girl — Fiona.
That’s the plot of Billings Studio Theatre’s new production, “Shrek the Musical, Jr,” but there is more to it. There is the message of inclusion and accepting yourself no matter who or what you are. One song from the musical, “Freak Flag,” pretty much sums that up.
Jacob Logan, who plays Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, said the musical has a lot of heart.
“The message is everybody needs to accept themselves and if you can accept yourself, you can accept other people,” Logan said.
“Shrek Jr,” which opens Thursday, Jan. 11, at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Jan. 20, is directed by Wendy Carlin. Featuring more than 60 local actors, all aged between 7 and 18, the show overcomes the challenges of costuming fairy tale creatures and staging complex scenes with the help of a solid team. Technical director Jeff Boschee calls them the "Ladies Power Team." In addition to Carlin, CJ Armstrong serves as assistant director and Chandra West is the costumer. Lynette Ryder, Susan Jurovich and Mae Foster are the stage crew and they also help with props and costumes.
Carlin sat in the sound booth Sunday night at BST, running the often-frustrating tech rehearsal with a smile and a rare calm.
She had her young cast learn all of their lines and music before Christmas break, so they could focus on the technical aspects of the show with its dancing dragon, walking gingerbread boy, 3-foot-tall prince and several fairy tale creatures.
"Shrek The Musical Jr." is based on the 2001 DreamWorks film, which in turn, is based on William Steig's 1990 book, "Shrek!"
Carlin has been at the helm of local youth products for 15 years, bringing precision and polish to the shows.
"I've seen these kids grow. What started as a shy 7-year-old is now shining in a big role. I've seen some go on to major in theater in college," Carlin said.
Sixty-four actors is a lot of to get dressed in a hurry backstage. Carlin added 20 parts to the show to accommodate the huge turnout she had for auditions. Because it’s a youth production, she tries to work in as many actors as possible.
“I had 100 show up for auditions,” Carlin said.
The leads are all powerhouse vocalists, and even though this is Jordan Shawver’s first show as a lead, he has been performing in choir and playing football so his size and his voice were perfect for the role.
“He was born to play Shrek," Carlin said. "He has a good voice and he’s got the Scottish accent down."
Shawver said his challenge in this role was to own the stage every time he stomps across it. In real life, he's a more gentle soul, without the personality of a "grumpy mean ogre."
Since Shawyer and Logan are classmates at Skyview High School, where Logan’s mom, Amy Logan, is the choir teacher, they play off each other’s antics.
“Working with Jordan brings out the goofball in me,” Logan said.
Shawver's mom, Holly, was in the Montana band Pope Jane that toured nationally in the 1990s.
Theresa Goudy plays Princess Fiona as a “yelling, burping, farting demon” who can also be sweet when she wants to be.
“Wendy told me to be 10 times louder and sound like a demon,” Goudy said.
With the exception of "I'm a Believer," the show has its own music, separate from the classic rock that was used in the film. As rehearsal got underway Sunday and the music took over, it was easy to see why the musical won four Tony Awards when it played Broadway — it does have heart.