Monday, August 1, 2016

a Q/A with the young, local, ensemble members from SHREK THE MUSICAL at Arizona Broadway Theatre

by Gil Benbrook

Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of Shrek, the Musical features a large number of local actors and actresses who bring the lovable ensemble characters to life. 

I had the chance to ask some of the show's younger ensemble members, three of who just graduated high school, some questions about this show, their experience, and what working at ABT is like.



TREY DEGROODT

What character(s) do you play in Shrek? One of the three little pigs, a gaurd for Farquaad, a Duloc dancer, and a dead, dancing, backup singing knight.

How old are you? 18

What high school did you just graduate from? I went to Liberty High School and Cutting Edge Style Academy for Cosmetology. I'm not going to school anywhere else!

Have you ever played a part in a production of Shrek before? Have you ever played this part before? No this is my first time performing in this show.

What type of research did you do for your role? I watched both the original Shrek movie and the recorded version of the Broadway production on Netflix.

What was the rehearsal process like? We rehearsed for two weeks learning the show for most of the day, and then one week of tech on the stage in costumes with lights and tech.

Have you worked with ABT before? Yes, I did Legally Blonde last summer, and I did a few of the kid roles in numerous shows.

What is your favorite moment in Shrek that you are a part of? I love "Freak Flag" towards the end of Act 2 because of the high energy in the number. I also enjoy the chances we get to improv as an ensemble.

What is your favorite moment of the show that you are not a part of? I love Donkey and the three blind mice during "Make a Move."

Shrek is a very fun, upbeat show, but also has some lessons within the story. What do you think is the most important message of the show? I love when Fiona says "maybe you shouldn't judge someone before you get to know them!" I think that's an important message for everyone especially in this type of world.

What do you hope audience members will take away from seeing the show? I hope we can entertain them and make them laugh and have a really good time!! I also hope this piece puts a little perspective on what it's like to feel different, yet how absolutely normal you are and how much you can be and are loved.

Mason Reeves, Trey DeGroodt and Adam Bei in Shrek the Musical
photo: Kat Barnes / ABT
What makes Arizona Broadway Theatre unique when compared to other theatre companies in town? I love the dinner and a show aspect! It gives the audience a totally different fun experience especially when the menu items are themed to the show. They also treat there actors with an amazing amount of respect, putting on an amazing show while still having fun.

What future plans do you have for after Shrek closes? I'm getting licensed for a career Cosmetology, and I'm gonna get a job doing that, while I continue auditioning and performing as much as I can.

What is your favorite show? Musical? Play? I love the Pippin and the Macbeth!

Have you ever been cast in it? No! But I hope so!!

What is your DREAM role? Roger in Rent, and I've been lucky enough to play it!


MASON REEVES

What character(s) do you play in ShrekI play Pig #1, also known as the straw pig, and Farquaad's henchman Thelonius.

How old are you? I'm 18 years old.

What school did you just graduate from? Pinnacle High School

Have you ever played a part in a production of Shrek before? Have you ever played this part before?  Yes, I was in Shrek at Valley Youth Theater a few years back and was actually a Pig however, I was Pig #3 last time and didn't get to perform as Thelonius as well!

What, if any, type of research did you do for your role? I just watched the Shrek movie a ton of times to lock down the high-pitched German accent that the pigs use.

What was the rehearsal process like? It was a very intense and fast-paced 3-week process during which we rehearsed from generally 9-5 every day except for Monday's! It was an awesome experience as well as a ton of quick hard memorization work, but at the end of the three weeks it's fantastic to see such brilliant work come together so efficiently.

Have you worked with ABT before?  If so, in what shows? Yes, I was a part of their New Year's Eve gala two years ago, and I was secondary ensemble during their production of Les Miserables.

What is your favorite moment in Shrek that you are a part of? When all of the Fairy tale creatures crash the wedding. I love the joyous yet immensely concerned faces of the audience members as a pig that's almost too wide to fit through the aisles screams past them.

What is your favorite moment of the show that you are not a part of? Without a doubt the song "Make a Move." Deonte (our donkey) and the three blind mice just do an incredible job with it vocally and physically, filling the song with a bright energy. Furthermore, Donkey gets to throw some hilarious references in during his improvisations that we listen for backstage everyday.

Shrek is a very fun, upbeat show, but also has some lessons within the story. What do you think is the most important message of the show? I think the most important message of the musical is the necessity of accepting everyone's differences and standing up for one another in the search of equality. This idea is especially poignant in our current experiences as we are witnessing more and more people turn to hate rather than acceptance and understanding.

What do you hope audience members will take away from seeing the show? I hope audience members will take away not only a great time but also a willingness to accept everyone for their differences.

What makes Arizona Broadway Theatre unique when compared to other theatre companies in town? It's dinner and a show! No other theaters that I'm familiar with nearby have such a fantastic kitchen and waiting staff who strive to make sure that you're not only enjoying your show but your meal as well.

Mason Reeves, Michael Shulz and Skyler Washburn in
Smokey Joe's Cafe - Desert Foothills Theater - 2016
photo: Tiffany Bollock
Where have you performed and in what shows/parts? Desert Foothills Theater- "Smokey Joe's CafĂ©" - Victor; "Hairspray" - Seaweed; Spotlight Youth Theater- "The Wedding Singer" - Robbie Hart; Phoenix Theater/ Hormel New Works Festival- "The Upside of Down" - Jimmy Bean; Musical Theater of Anthem-"Into The Woods" - Baker

What has been your favorite part to play? My favorite part that I've played would have to be Baker in Into the Woods. It was amazing to dive into the deeper character motivations that drove him as a man striving to cope with an entirely new and fearful experience whilst attempting to be a good father without having one himself.

What is your favorite Musical? Play? My favorite musical is undeniably "Passing Strange" by Stew. It's an amazing tale of self-discovery that follows a young African American man who travels through Europe in search of "the real" in life. My favorite play is currently "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" simply because it was absolutely stunning when I saw it on Broadway.

Have you ever been cast in it? Unfortunately, no, they recently did a production of it at Itheatre Collaborative directed by Jeff Kennedy but I was unable to audition due to college auditions.

What is your dream role? My dream role is Youth in "Passing Strange" or Haywood from "The Scottsboro Boys"

What are your future plans after Shrek closes? I'm going to the University of Michigan to get my BFA in Musical Theater. Following that, I hope to become a full-time performer, supporting myself by doing what I love.

ADAM BEI

What character(s) do you play in Shrek? I play one of the three little pigs, as well as a guard, a skeleton knight, and a citizen of Duloc (Dulocian?).

How old are you? I am 23 years old.

What high school did you graduate from or where do you currently go to college? I graduated from Dobson High School and currently attend Mesa Community College.

Have you ever played a part in a production of Shrek before? 
This is my first time performing in Shrek.

What if any type of research did you do for your role? We all know the story of the three little pigs, so that comes into play. I also touched up quite a bit on my Deutsch dialect!

What was the rehearsal process like? Extremely creative and efficient! Adam Berger, our music director, as well as Mace Archer, our artistic director, kept everybody focused and engaged throughout.

Have you worked with ABT before?  Nope, this is my first show with ABT!

What is your favorite moment in Shrek that you are a part of? The musical number 'What's Up Duloc?' Features a group of dancing Dulocians, and it's a very rewarding scene to perform.

What is your favorite moment of the show that you are not a part of? Probably the end of act I, when Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona sing 'Who I'd Be'. It's my favorite song in the show, and it's sung powerfully every time.

Shrek is a very fun, upbeat show, but also has some lessons within the story. What do you think is the most important message of the show? I think the important message is to be proud of who you are. Everybody is quirky and weird in their own way!

What do you hope audience members will take away from seeing the show? Within this show, there's an underlying theme of love and acceptance, which definitely has relevance in today's society. This is also the kind of show that has humor for all ages, so I hope everybody can laugh together and share a good time!

Adam Bei and Johnna Watson in Next to Normal
Nearly Naked Theatre - 2016
photo: Laura Durant
What makes Arizona Broadway Theatre unique when compared to other theatre companies in town?  ABT is professional in every sense of the word, and because they are a team of artists as well as directors/managers, they understand how to accommodate their performers well and keep the work environment fun and loose. It's been a wonderful experience!

What future plans do you have for after Shrek closes? I will be performing with Childsplay for their upcoming national tour of Rock the Presidents. I'm looking forward to experiencing the country on tour for the first time!

What is your favorite show? Musical? Play? My all time favorite show is Next To Normal.

Have you ever beencast in it? Yes, earlier this summer I played Gabe in Nearly Naked Theatre's production of the show.

What is your DREAM role? Gabe was my dream role, so that experience was unforgettable. My next dream-role-in-line would have to be Enjolras in Les Mis.


ALI WHITWELL

What character(s) do you play in ShrekI play Sugar Plum Fairy and Gingy as well as some other fun ensemble roles like a duloc performer and puppeteer.

How old are you? I am 18 years old.

What school did you just graduate from? I just graduated from Arizona School for the Arts in June.

Have you ever played a part in a production of Shrek before? Have you ever played this part before? I have actually! I played Sugar Plum Fairy/Gingy in Valley Youth Theatre's production of Shrek in 2013. It's so much fun to be able to play this role again three years later.

What, if any, type of research did you do for your role?  I watched the Broadway show on Netflix a couple of times, as well as the original movie a couple dozen times! Mastering a character voice is a slippery slope, especially when it is from such an iconic movie, so my main form of research was just listening, mimicking, and repeating.

What was the rehearsal process like? Quick! ABT has a two week rehearsal process followed by a one week tech and then it's showtime, so it went by pretty speedy! It was great fun though! We have such an amazing cast and wonderful direction team, so every rehearsal just felt like play instead of work.

Have you worked with ABT before?  If so, in what shows? I have! I worked with ABT last summer in their production of Legally Blonde.

Ali Whitwell (manipulating "Gingy" inside the box)
with David Brumfield and Tony Blosser
What is your favorite moment in Shrek that you are a part of? My favorite moment has to be the scene between Gingy and Farquaad in Act 1. It has some of my favorite lines from the movie, and it also pretty fun manipulating the puppet from inside a tiny box, which few people actually know I'm inside.

What is your favorite moment of the show that you are not a part of? I absolutely love the song "Who I'd be" which closes act one. It is one of the first times in the show where Shrek shows himself to be vulnerable and that he is as feeling as any other person or thing. It think it is just such a beautiful way to end act one and highlight the true meaning of the show; yes, Shrek is hilarious, but it's the touching moments that really make it amazing.

Shrek is a very fun, upbeat show, but also has some lessons within the story. What do you think is the most important message of the show? I think the most important lesson of the show is that life should never be confined by  what storybooks tell us. What I mean to say is, sometimes society can show us pretty twisted ideas of what is "acceptable", but life and love and character should never be dictated or dismissed because it doesn't fit a cookie cutter mold. Like the lyrics state, "we are different and united", and I think Shrek really tries to prove that to be true.

What do you hope audience members will take away from seeing the show? I hope audience members leave the show with sore stomachs from laughing so hard, denial from the tears they shed, and, most importantly, confidence in their differences and quirks.

What makes Arizona Broadway Theatre unique when compared to other theatre companies in town? I think ABT is one of the only dinner theatres left in the valley, which is different. As an audience member, the table arrangements often allow you to converse with and meet new people which gives the audience a more connected, family-friendly atmosphere. Also, they have amazing food which is an obvious perk.

Where have you performed and in what shows/parts? The last show I did before Shrek was Smokey Joes Cafe at Desert Foothills Theatre. I played Patti. I also performed quite a bit at Spotlight Youth Theatre. Some of my favorite shows that I did there were RENT, Wedding Singer, and Spelling Bee.


Ali Whitwell, Heidi-Liz Johnson and Trey DeGroodt
What has been your favorite part to play? My favorite part that I have played in the past was definitely Logainne in Spelling Bee.

What is your favorite Musical? Play?  That is such a hard question. My favorite musical at the moment is probably Company or The Color Purple and my favorite play is either The Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl or Much Ado About Nothing.

Have you ever been cast in any of them? I have not been cast in any of them, no! I probably won't ever or any time soon, especially for The Color Purple and Company. But I really hope I get to play Beatrice before my time runs out because she has always been one of the most inspiring characters to me, not just as an actor, but as a person.

What is your dream role?  Ahhh, another hard question!! One that I will always want to do is Maggie in A Chorus Line because it is one of those roles that got me inspired to do theatre. But, I would also one day love to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Wendla in Spring Awakening, Marisol in Marisol, and absolutely anything in Sweet Charity.

What are your future plans after Shrek closes? I am taking a gap year currently, so I am just taking the year to train and hone my skills. It will also, hopefully, include a few shows or too, so you might see me around in some other productions. :)



BEN MASSOURAS

What character(s) do you play in Shrek? I play the guard, knight, pied piper, and bishop during the show.

How old are you? I am 20 years old.

Where do you currently go to college? I currently attend Arizona State University for a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre and am going to be a junior this year.

Have you ever played a part in a production of Shrek before? 
No! I have always wanted to be a part of the show but it always conflicted with other shows I was performing in.

What if any type of research did you do for your role? Definitely watching different productions for ideas for character voices since I have 3 distinct characters in the show. I used different productions to find which voices and character choices worked for me, as well as discovering my own choices throughout the rehearsal period.

What was the rehearsal process like? We rehearsed 9-5 almost everyday and then 11-11 during tech week. The rehearsal process was all about making choices and finding the choices that worked for the show. Shrek is over the top everything, so it was fun to discover how far to push the exaggerated nature of the show.

Have you worked with ABT before? I have! I performed as a child in A Christmas Carol as well as The Full Monty.

L-R Ben Massouras, Jason Simon, Liz Fallon, Seth Hunter
What is your favorite moment in Shrek that you are a part of?  I enjoy being the bishop because I'm not a fairy tale creature, but as the bishop, I get to slowly discover that I truly am one of them and I love the interactions as a cast on stage.

What is your favorite moment of the show that you are not a part of?  My favorite moment of the show is definitely "Freak Flag." I think it has such a positive message, and I love listening to all of the creatures have their solos.

Shrek is a very fun, upbeat show, but also has some lessons within the story. What do you think is the most important message of the show? The most important is to love yourself and not take life too seriously. In all of the humor of the show, there are lasting impressions made on the audience of acceptance, tolerance, and love.

What do you hope audience members will take away from seeing the show? I hope they take away not taking life too seriously all the time and to learn compassion and tolerance. With all the conflict in the nation and world at the moment, we need to spread love and I hope that this show plays a part in that.

What makes Arizona Broadway Theatre unique when compared to other theatre companies in town? I love the fact that ABT always feels like a home, and they make sure that the cast, crew, and staff become a family. Also, the fact that it is a dinner theatre makes it unique because it's a new way to further the audience member's enjoyment of the show.

What future plans do you have for after Shrek closes? I will be back in school, but I plan on doing shows around the valley or at school, and then in February I start rehearsals for Bullets Over Broadway at Phoenix Theatre.

What is your favorite show? My favorite show is A Chorus Line.

Have you ever been cast in it? Yes, I was cast at Spotlight Youth Theatre as Bobby and would love to play the role again someday.

What is your DREAM role? My dream role is Tommy in Carrie, but doing what I love everyday is all I can ask for.

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