Beyond the green makeup and Scottish accent, there’s a deeper side to “Shrek.”
Director Sondra Baker said the show tackles one of the most pervasive issues of our time — judging people based on their appearance.
“That is why the movie has spawned so many sequels — because it touches the heart of everybody who watches it,” Baker said.
“Shrek: The Musical” opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. and runs for four weeks at Billings Studio Theatre. Tickets are available by calling 248-1141.
In the title role of Shrek is 41-year-old Billings actor Kyle Trott. Trott’s emotive tenor voice has a rock edge to it that helped him land in several big Billings shows since he returned to Montana in 2009. Among his favorites were “Forever Plaid” at BST and the rock musical “Next to Normal” in 2013 at the old Venture Theatre, now NOVA Center of the Performing Arts.
“I’m just an actor who can sing,” Trott said. “I have had vocal training over the years and singing is just something I love to do.”
Trott studied opera at the University of Wyoming, but he said seeing a concert by the Three Tenors ruined it for him because he realized once he trained his voice in opera, there would be no going back to singing jazz or pop.
“I sacrifice vocal power for technique,” Trott said. “I love jazz and I want to be able to sing in rock musicals, too.”
While living in Los Angeles for 12 years, Trott did work for television and stage and was cast in a Broadway production of “Les Miserables,” but the entire cast and crew was fired because of a dispute between the director and producer and it never opened.
Trott said he relates to Shrek because he, too, is judged based on the fact that he’s a big guy with a barrel chest.
“I’m so hard on myself,” Trott said. “I’ve battled weight my whole life. At this point, I’m really in good shape, but because I look big, nobody thinks I am. So when they’re going hiking or doing something outside, I never get asked.”
Veteran Billings actress Vanessa Dent plays Fiona, the princess who is locked in a tower as a child to hide her secret. While she’s there, Fiona concentrates on all the fairy-tale books with the happy endings and envisions a handsome prince coming to rescue her. When she sees her rescuer is an ogre, she is furious.
Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, is part of the lead trio, bringing wisecracks and cynicism to a new level. Another veteran Billings actor, Steve Hrubes, plays Donkey. CJ Jennings plays Pinocchio, and Hunter Hash plays Lord Farquadd. Gracie Day and MacKenzie Stone play younger versions of Fiona and Aidan Kessler plays young Shrek.
The stage version features different music from the animated film, where Mike Myers voices the role of Shrek, but the story shares the same basis, William Steig’s 1990 children’s book, “Shrek!”
BST is among the first Montana community theaters to stage “Shrek,” which was released to community theaters in 2013.
The theater moved out a row of seats to accommodate the 9-piece band led by Kathy McClain. Baker is happy that the theater got behind the musical and is giving it a four-week run. She said the cast deserves that.
“The cast is so hard-working. They really want to get it right. The show is in a good place and we’re ready to open,” Baker said.