To become Maquoketa High School’s Shrek, Orion Friederich practiced at every possible spare moment: at home, singing in the car, constantly listening to the soundtrack and working to perfect his gravelly, Irish ogre voice.
“An ogre doesn’t sing in a good voice,” Friederich said. “One of the songs, it’s going to destroy my voice, but I’m going to rock that one.”
His dedication and enthusiasm are impossible to miss.
“The kids really come into their character,” said musical director Joel Hagen, now on his 13th show at Maquoketa. “They take ownership of the show and really invest in their characters.”
Most audience members will know Shrek from the 2001 Dreamworks animated film of the same name. With its fairy tale and movie parodies, Shrek quickly became a favorite modern fairy tale.
The curtain will go up on “Shrek the Musical” at 7 p.m. April 12 and 13. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for students and $12 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Maquoketa High School and Osterhaus Pharmacy.
Co-starring with Friederich are Zac Gavin as Donkey and Sidney Michel as Fiona.
Friederich said he enjoys playing a character who voices his frustrations.
“I get to yell a lot,” he joked. “Shrek is angry, then he’s softer in the middle, then he’s angry again, and then happy ending.”
The high school bought the fanciful costumes and set from another school and plan to sell them to another school after the show closes. This allows a technical production level the school might have been hard-pressed to create on its own, especially with practice time cut a couple weeks due to winter storms.
“It’s just color,” Friederich said. “A lot of color. Come to it, and it’ll make you smile.”
Hagen said the audience will be “not just entertained but also a little baffled by what we’ve been able to pull off, with these kids, with these costumes, with this show. I think you’ll go away humming a song.”
Those songs won’t all be familiar to theater-goers. While the musical couldn’t resist the infectious song “I’m a Believer,” most of the other songs are specific to the stage production. “Not as many people have seen the stage show,” Hagen said. “I think you’ll be surprised, pleasantly.”
Hagen was drawn to “Shrek the Musical” because he saw a “show that our kids can succeed at.” The familiarity brightens its appeal, but that familiarity can be a double-edged sword, too.
Ariana Payton is a Duloc dancer and a “happy villager.” She said she didn’t like the dancing at first, but it’s become fun as she’s grown familiar with it. Krista Machael, who plays similar roles, agrees.
For fellow freshman Serena Brainard, one of the highlights is that she gets to do this show with her brother, Friederich.
As a senior, Friederich is excited to end his high school musical career on a high note, having worked himself up from smaller roles as an underclassman.
“The whole thing was leading up to this point,” he said. “I’m so happy to be at this point.”