The Durham Performing Arts Center will present a deluxe production of the Tony Award®-winning 2008 fractured fairy tale, Shrek the Musical, based on the 2001 Academy Award®-winning animated movie Shrek, on April 5-10 in its brand-new 2,700-seat, state-the-art theater in the American Tobacco District in downtown Durham, NC. This vivacious First National Broadway Tour of Shrek, produced by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions, Ltd. and directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, features music by 2007 Olivier Award for Best New Musical winner Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, or Change, with book by Tony Kushner) and book and lyrics by 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole).
The touring version of Shrek the Musical stars Eric Petersen as the big, green, smelly, antisocial, swamp-dwelling ogre Shrek; Alan Mingo, Jr. as his smart-aleck sidekick and best friend Donkey; Haven Burton as Princess Fiona of Far, Far Away, the damsel-in-distress whom Shrek and Donkey rescue from a castle tower guarded by a ferocious fire-breathing Dragon; and David F.M. Vaughn as the villainous Lord Farquaad, the nasty, brutish, and short ruler of Duloc who peremptorily banishes fairy-tale creatures from his city and forces them to take refuge in Shrek’s swamp, where they immediately impinge on the ogre’s much-cherished privacy.
David Vaughn, who normally stands 6’1″ in his stocking feet, delights in playing Lord Farquaad, a little man with a big ego. “I do the entire show on my knees,” confesses. “When I stand up at the end, the audience is always surprised at how tall I am,” claims the 31-year-old Fairfax, VA native who grew up in Palm Harbor, FL, and earned a B.A. degree in theater from Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Before he became a member of the company Shrek the Musical, Vaughn played the student revolutionary leader Enjolras in the first regional premiere of Les Misérables in Salt Lake City, UT, in the summer of 2007.
“I’ve been in the company of Shrek for three years — since the 2008 out-of-town tryout of the musical in Seattle,” says Vaughn. “We were there for three months, and we made some changes and some edits. Then we opened on Broadway [in December 2008].”
He notes, “When I started the show, I was a swing, which basically means that I understudied the ensemble. (There are nine ensemble men and nine ensemble women.)”
Like Eric Petersen and Haven Burton, who understudied their tour roles as Shrek and Princess Fiona while performing in the original Broadway production of Shrek the Musical, David Vaughn understudied Lord Farquaad on the Great White Way. Then he started out the tour — in July 2010 in Chicago — playing Lord Farquaad, a meaty role that he plans to relish until July 31, 2011, when the tour ends.
When preparing to play Lord Farquaad, Vaughn says, “I got to watch Christopher Sieber, who originated the role and developed it on Broadway and to explore the pitfalls of the part. In the movie, Lord Farquaad is a traditionally evil villain. But Christopher Sieber took the spoiled-brat approach to the role, which is kind of fun.”
The 2001 DreamWorks Animation movie Shrek, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson from a screenplay by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, and Roger S.H. Schulman, was based on the 1990 picture book Shrek! written and illustrated by William Steig (1907-2003). The first film of what turned out to be DreamWorks Animation’s highly lucrative Shrek franchise featured the voices of Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona, and John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad. Shrek won the 2002 Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature, and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.
Initiated by British theater and film director Sam Mendes, Shrek the Musical is the inaugural effort of the theatrical arm of DreamWorks Animation. After the 2008 out-of-town tryouts in Seattle, the show made its Broadway debut, directed by Jason Moore and choreographed by Josh Prince, on Dec. 14, 2008 at the Broadway Theatre, where it played for 441 performances before closing on Jan. 3, 2010. The original Broadway production of Shrek starred Brian d’Arcy James as Shrek, Daniel Breaker as Donkey, Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona, and Christopher Sieber as Lord Farquaad.
Shrek the Musical won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Musical (Tim Hatley), and was nominated for seven other Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (David Lindsay-Abaire), Best Original Score Written for the Theatre (music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire), Best Actor in a Musical (Brian d’Arcy James as Shrek), Best Actress in a Musical (Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Christopher Sieber as Lord Farquaad), and Best Orchestrations (Danny Troob and John Clancy).
The current North American tour of Shrek the Musical began in July 2010, and will end in July 2011. In addition to directors Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, the creative team for the tour includes choreographer Josh Prince, set and costume designer Tim Hatley, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone, sound designer Peter Hylenski, and music supervisor Tim Weil — all five reprising their roles in the original Broadway production. The tour also features music direction by Andy Grobengieser, and orchestrations by Danny Troob and John Clancy.
Shrek the Musical covers the events of the first movie, explains David Vaughn. “He adds, “That film was an hour-and-a-half long, and the musical is two-an-a-half hours long [including a 20-minute intermission].
“You get a lot of background on the characters that you already know,” says Vaughn. For instance, DPAC patrons will meet Shrek at age seven, when he gets kicked out of his home by his parents.
Vaughn says, “[Shrek the Musical] has an entirely brand-new score by Jeanine Tesori, who is a brilliant Broadway composer. There’s only two songs from the movie still in it: ‘Welcome to Duloc’ and [the Monkees’ 1966 hit] ‘I’m a Believer,’ which we sing at the curtain call.”
There are also some surprises in the storyline, says David Vaughn. He adds, “You get so much more information in the musical about who Fiona’s father and mother are, why Lord Farquaad is so short, and why Fiona is locked in the tower.”
The fairy-tale characters, especially Peter Pan, also get more moments in the spotlight, says Vaughn.
“The original Seattle production was grittier, darker, and a little scarier,” says David Vaughn. He adds, “The story became a little brighter on Broadway, and they have completely redesigned the dragon puppet and the dragon scene for the tour. It’s spectacular. I think it’s the best part of the show now.”
“When it comes to Shrek,” Vaughn says, “people know what to expect. It’s a lot of fun. The musical has adult jokes that go over the kids’ heads, and it’s got kid jokes that everyone gets.”
SECOND OPINION: April 1st Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/12581272/article-The-long-and-short-of-it–Playing-Lord-Farquaad-on-stage-in–Shrek-?instance=main_article (Note: You must register first to read this article).
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents SHREK THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. April 5-7, 8 p.m. April 8, 2 and 8 p.m. April 9, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 10 at DPAC, in the American Tobacco District, at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $29.75-$77.00 (including fees).
Ticketmaster: 800/982-2787, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1250914.
VIDEO PREVIEW (“I’m a Believer” montage): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sQGaMzF00.
The Tour: http://www.shrekthemusical.com/index.html (official web page).
Shrekster: http://www.shrekster.com/durham (official web page).
Haven Burton: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=412405 (Internet Broadway Database).
Alan Mingo, Jr.: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=459104 (Internet Broadway Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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