This family is diverse.
Antonio Royce Copeland (pictured right, getting a lift in rehearsal), who brays the character Donkey in Muskegon Civic Theatre’s upcoming production of “Shrek the Musical,” has a string of professional acting credits. It cuts a swath from Cherry County Playhouse to the famous Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, Ind., to Pomona Beach.
Zozz Chalupa is a Spring Lake fourth grader who plays three roles in the MCT show, including Young Fiona who grows up (in the person of adult actress Kendyl White) to become the big, green ogre Shrek’s love interest.
Zozz’s dad, Chris Chalupa, is a West Michigan community theatre veteran who doubles in “Shrek,” playing both the Big Bad Wolf and King Harold.
And in the title role, Paul Dickens-Jacobs, a native New Zealander and local transplant, has a resume that includes some of the most coveted roles in musical theatre; for starters, both Amos (“Mr. Cellophane”) Hart and Billy Flynn in different productions of “Chicago,” Roger Davis in “Rent” and Bobby Strong in “Urinetown.”
Toss in that the choreographer, Muskegon native Erin Robere, has a performance lineage highlighted by a stint at Walt Disney World, and there is a sampling of MCT’s “Shrek.”
Under the direction of Jason Bertoia who also is MCT’s managing director, the show that will run May 2-5 at the historic, downtown Frauenthal Theatre sports a diversity of ages, experiences and backgrounds. It thus defines one thing that community theatre can mean: family.
“Shrek the Musical” — hardly a surprise — is a family-friendly show. USA Today called it, “a triumph of comic imagination with a heart as big and warm as Santa’s.” The box-office rallying cry could be, “Bring one, bring all!”
As do many community theatre productions, the MCT cast and crew includes some members of the same family. For instance, in addition to the Chalupas, the “Shrek” cast features Robin L. Erdman as Mama Bear, and, as Teen Fiona, one of her two daughters, Ashley, a sophomore at Western Michigan Christian High School.
Then there is the indigenous process of bonding. A bunch of folks — young and old and in between — who elsewhere might not have much in common, work together on a project. They collaborate toward a common goal: pulling off the best show they can. What results is teamwork, the kind of close-knit support and nurturing that often leads members of athletics teams to refer to themselves as family.
“From our first rehearsal is was clear that we put together one outstanding cast,” Bertoia said. “The rehearsal room was instantly filled with some of the best talent representing all of the communities that make up the Greater Muskegon area. Our cast, and creative team exemplifies what it means to be a community theatre, what it means to be Muskegon Civic Theatre.”
“Shrek the Musical” is the 2008 stage adaptation of the blockbuster 2001 computer-animated comedy “Shrek.”
The show winks satirically at some popular fairy tales, and nods at a few other shows such as “Gypsy” and “A Chorus Line.”
Its story centers on the exploits of four principals: the misanthropic Shrek who learns to love; his smart-aleck sidekick Donkey; Princess Fiona who additionally wants nothing to do with Shrek but only a dope could not guess what happens in the end; and Lord Farquaad (played for MCT by Kevin Prince), a pint-sized royal pest who has designs on Fiona, and whose physical stature is a running sight gag. The role requires the performer to walk on his knees with tiny fake feet dangling before, recalling comedian Tim Conway’s sawed-off creation Dorf.
The bulk of the rest of the characters are familiar fairy tale creatures — Pinocchio, Mad Hatter, Pied Piper, Ugly Duckling, White Rabbit, Humpty Dumpty, elves, a certain bear family and trios of blind mice and little pigs — whom Farquaad banished to a swamp.
And a dragon (Lorrell Stark) smitten with Donkey, and vice versa.
Bertoia said it’s all working.
“If you haven’t been to an MCT production in a while, now’s the time to come home and see a show,” he said, “and if you are a follower of MCT, you are in for a treat. MCT raised the bar of local theater years ago. But, if I do say so myself, we are about to blow the roof off.”
Performances at the 1,720-seat Frauenthal will be at 7:30 p.m. May 2-4, and 3 p.m. May 5.
Tickets are $24 for adults, and $22 for students (grades K-12 and college with a current student ID) and senior citizens (65 and older). They are available online at muskegoncivictheatre.org/tickets, and at the box office of the Frauenthal Center.
There also is a special deal, for students and holders of a Bridge Card, on tickets in the Frauenthal’s upper balcony: buy one ticket and get a second ticket free. To purchase those, patrons must show a valid student identification, or a Bridge Card, at the box office.
The box office is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and two hours before performances.