Valley Youth Theatre brings “Shrek The Musical” to the Herberger

Valley Youth Theatre brings “Shrek The Musical” to the Herberger Aug. 11-27. Photos courtesy of VYT archives.

What better way to experience a fairytale ending to summer than to spend it with a lovable ogre who finds himself on a life-changing journey? The unlikely hero, along with a wisecracking donkey and a feisty princess, are all part of “Shrek The Musical.” Valley Youth Theatre is bringing its production to Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix Aug. 11-27.

While “Shrek” marks the start of VYT’s 2017-2018 season, it’s also the last of three productions brought to the Herberger this summer by VYT and Arizona Broadway Theatre.

The Tony Award-winning show is based on the Oscar-winning 2001 DreamWorks Animation film with Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz voicing the main characters. The film, in turn, is loosely based on the 1990 picture book “Shrek!” by William Steig.

In addition to sporting colorful costumes and a live orchestra, the musical brings all the beloved characters audiences know from the film to life on stage and promises to be fun for the whole family. Of special note is the eye-popping set designed by the late Paul Bridgeman that transforms the Herberger’s Center Stage into a swamp fit for an ogre.

Custom costumes, live music and eye-popping set design make Valley Youth Theatre’s production of “Shrek The Musical” a must-see for families.

For 16 years, Bridgeman served as technical director for Grand Canyon University’s theater department, where he taught stagecraft and makeup to a generation of students in addition to creating award-winning scenic designs. He also designed sets for Arizona Broadway Theatre.

When it comes to costuming, how do you turn a teenager into an ogre? That’s really no problem to Karol Cooper, who has been the resident costumer designer at VYT for 21 years.

“Teenagers aren’t that hard to bulk up,” she says. “We just make a nice fat suit.”

As far as creating costumes in general, it all goes back to the script and what the story line ultimately calls for. In this production, “the biggest challenge … is some of the costume changes happening very quickly,” she says, noting that you have to be a problem solver. “How is this person going to get from Point A to Point B and show up as the next character?”

According to Cooper, one of the things that most surprises people is that “we build our own costumes. There’s not a Duloc store out there,” she says, referencing a city in the musical, “or an ogre store.” Thus, renting or buying is out. Another surprise, she says, is that “the majority of what we build is made by volunteers, not paid seamstresses.” In fact, when VYT produced “Shrek” several years ago, patrons of the show put in a copious amount of hours. She calls them “true heroes.”

A little tyrant adds to the comedy in “Shrek The Musical” onstage Aug. 11-27 at Herberger Theater Center.

Wearing the costumes created by Cooper are almost 40 talented young actors from all over the Valley. One of them is Steven Enriquez, who has called Shrek a dream role. Steven has worked with numerous Valley theaters; his roles include the Baker in “Into the Woods” and Jafar in “Aladdin Jr.” at Fountain Hills Theater, and Mr. O’Hanlon in “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” at East Valley Children’s Theatre.

A junior at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix, 16-year-old Addison Bowman is Princess Fiona, her third role for Valley Youth Theatre. Previously she played Ariel’s sister in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and Cinderella’s mother in “Into the Woods.” In 2016, she received the National Youth Arts Award for Artist of the Year. Other credits include Fantine in “Les Misérables School Edition” at Theater Works, and Rosalie Mullins in “School of Rock” and Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” for Spotlight Youth Theatre.

Making his VYT debut is 15-year-old Brach Drew as the fast-talking donkey. He’s a sophomore at Marcos De Niza High School in Tempe.

So come along on this fun theatrical journey — and if you end up holding your sides while laughing or tapping your toes to the music, no one will blame you.