“We have an awesome cast,” said Jonelle Kop, producer of Shrek, The Musical, which opens tonight at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Coral Shores High School, mile marker 90 oceanside in Islamorada. The Key Players scoured the swamp and Overseas Highway to unearth Jordan Griffiths, who was born and raised in Oregon and now resides in Key Largo, for the role of Shrek. When he opens his mouth to sing, anyone who has ever watched a Key Players musical is going to smile ear to ear.
There have been times when actors have been cast in the principal roles of the troupe’s musicals, but this time, Griffiths and the huge cast is talented in both singing and acting, making the musical a delight from start to finish.
This is Griffiths debut with the Key Players. However, in Oregon he has appeared in Hairspray, Boys Next Door, Helen Keller and As You Like It.
The ogre’s story unfolds as Shrek’s parents — including Coral Shores Teacher Michelle Zofchak, who is the school’s drama club sponsor, and who plays Shrek’s mother, — send Shrek off on his own at age 7, while singing, “Dreams come true, but not for you” and telling him to “Watch out for men with pitchforks.” With that inauspicious beginning to his future, Shrek’s tale unfolds.
The cast is comprised of about 40 members, eight-years-young and older, who sing and act through scenes of princesses growing up in isolated towers, fairy tale and Disney characters such as Pinocchio and The Three Bears doing characteristic deeds, and Lord Farquaad banishing the fairy tale characters to Shrek’s new home, Duloc Swamp. Shrek is none too happy with the quirky company, but they convince him to join forces in a quest.
Meanwhile, Shrek meets a donkey, played by Coral Shores gradate and Valencia College student, D.J. Mills, 23, who acts and sounds like Eddie Murphy who was the voice of the donkey in the movie, Shrek. The donkey wants to be Shrek’s buddy, and Shrek reluctantly agrees because he is lost. The donkey is as happy as Shrek is downtrodden. Mills has performed with Key Players’ Kids’ Theater since sixth grade when he performed in Give my Regards to Broadway. He said he loves theater and is self-taught in his artful choreography.
The height-challenged Lord Farquaad decides he needs a queen and goes in search of the princess in the tower. All the princesses from seventh grader, Mariah, to high school junior, Alexis Duran, to the adult princess played by Kelly Wilken have beautiful voices — again, a nice surprise for an audience used to volunteer actors taking on roles.
Fourth grader Mattie Johnson who just turned 10 years old on Tuesday plays Baby Bear as part of the Three Bears. Taking voice lessons, Johnson said she has four lines and three songs in Shrek, and has been practicing with the cast since September. Johnson has played the witch in the musical, Into the Woods, and the wolf in Belle, also a musical.
Producer Kop, who serves on the board of the Keys Players, is Shrek’s co-director with Jeremy Wilken, who was instrumental in making props. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him,” she said. Because Wilken “has the most incredible voice,” Wilken had to get on his knees and star as Lord Farquaad in addition to his directing role, Kop said.
Dozens of behind-the-curtain aides deserve shout-outs as well, Kop said.
But then, Kop is multi-tasking times about five. She was in charge of costumes and multiple details. Kop rented an 18-foot-tall dragon from California for $3,000 which has a wide wingspan and eyes that light up.
These details aim to make the audience’s eyes light up as well, as they enjoy the singing, acting and special set design and effects of Shrek, The Musical. Performed Thursdays through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Feb. 24 to March 6, adult tickets are $20 and students are $10. They can be paid for online and picked up at the will-call window at the PAC.
The Key Players organized in 1978 as a small group of Upper Keys people interested in quality live theater. Their first show was the play, Curse You Jack Dalton. Through the years, the Key Players has presented over 100 plays, musicals, revues and concerts. For more information or to get involved in front of the curtain or behind the scenes, visit http://www.thekeyplayers.org/.