by Jim Boyle
Not everyone can pull off a swamp-dwelling green ogre in a musical stage version of the silver-screen hit “Shrek.”
Elk River High School sophomore Joe O’Connell can.
It’s something Elk River High School Theatrical Arts program’s director Michelle Brooks counted on when she decided to bring the adventures of Shrek and a comedic donkey sidekick to the Zabee Theater stage.
O’Connell and the rest of the cast and crew put on three outstanding performances this past weekend and have two more this weekend with the final sho
w taking place 7 p.m. April 1 at Elk River High School.
In the show, Shrek goes on a life-changing adventure to reclaim the deed to his land. Joined by a wise-cracking donkey, the unlikely hero faces a fearsome dragon, rescues a feisty princess and learns that real friendship and true love aren’t only found in fairy tales.
Brooks knew O’Connell could pull off the role after, as a freshman, he brought Tin Man of “The Wizard of Oz” to life, and she also felt last school year the other necessary pieces were falling into place.
“He has such a booming and commanding voice,” Brooks said. “This is our second year with Joe and he takes feedback and direction like a dream and runs with it.”
Last year he demonstrated his ability to be a quick study by learning how to make time for his other role as a member of the school’s varsity tennis team. This year he had to prep for “Shrek” with a bad case of double-pink eye and a sinus infection.
“He kept going and persevered,” Brooks said. “As they say, the show must go on.”
The task of finding a Fiona would be easy with Brooks’ talent pool of actresses.
“They all want to play Fiona,” Brooks said.
Senior Olivia Fromm landed the role of Fiona and showed she was she was a good choice.
Senior Ben Cornelius joins Shrek on stage as Donkey in many of the ogre’s scenes, keeping the pace of the show quick with his wit.
Cornelius was more of a calculated risk, Brooks told the Star News. He had demonstrated his serious side time and again last year, strong out front as an actor and working backstage as a problem-solver in the creation of props for
George Orwell’s “1984” along with Liam Barnes who’s now performing with Lyric Arts Theater in Anoka. He also had a fun side and Brooks felt he could deliver timely punchlines as the donkey, however, he would have to prove it and he did.
But Shrek, Fiona and Donkey are only three of many in long cast that bring this spring musical to life, and the help backstage has been tremendous, too, Brooks said.
One standout in back has been freshman Kaylee Sullivan, who plays Ugly Duckling. Sullivan played a key role backstage by taking charge of all the elementary school kids in the show.
Many of the seniors stepped up when the set was late due to weather and Brooks had to pull away from the front of the stage where she does most of her magic.
“The seniors stepped up, and when they weren’t on stage, they took notes and gave feedback to the cast,” Brooks said. “It’s quite a team effort.”
The cast also includes: Kaytlin Sederholm, Kristina Erickson, Liv Osmundson, Erin Buerke, Tailer Benson, Arica Reesman, Jessica Timm, Rachel Schoeneker, Siri Monroy, Rachel Ford, Genna Dow, Elizabeth Rumreich, Charity Timm, Hallie Yurich, Rachael Johnston, Dulcie Lawrence, Elana Sederholm, Cassie Johnson, Jenna Olawsky, Kaytlin Nething, Maddie Harvey, Caitlyn Harvey, Emily Holmquist, Ryley Erickson, Anneke Verhoef, Mickiah Johnson, Savanah Klegon, Hailey Pratt, Alyssa Dailey, Braden Davey, Katie Collins, Emma Johnson, Erin Mably, Matthew Nelson, Austin Praske-Kokowski and Lauren Venne.
If you go:
Elk River High School, Zabee Theater
7 p.m. on March 31 and April 1.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and students.