BWW Review: Valley Youth Theatre Presents SHREK THE MUSICAL
I have to admit, I had been counting down the days to see VYT's Shrek The Musical. Ever since seeing Wizard of Oz back in June, I had been itching to see another one of the Phoenix youth theatre's spectacular, cutting-edge shows.
Shrek was VYT's first show of the 2017-18 season, and it certainly started off the season with a bang, combining a talented cast, crew, orchestra, and a splendorous venue. Valley Youth Theatre typically hosts two shows per season at the Herberger Theatre, however, this season, three of their shows will appear on the larger stage.
I was on the edge of my seat as the amazing Steven Enriquez carried the show as Shrek, accompanied by the magnificent Addison Bowman (Fiona) and comical Brach Drew (Donkey). All three sang a beautiful rendition of "Who I'd Be", as their voices intertwined and resounded throughout the house. The amusing and cunning Jared Barbee (Lord Farquaad) caused the audience to howl with laughter, as Albert Johnston (Pinocchio) and Isabella Conner (Gingy/Sugar Plum Fairy) surprised the audience with their impeccable interpretations of their characters voices.
I had the opportunity to speak to two cast members about their experiences with Valley Youth Theatre and their time performing at the Herberger. I first spoke to Riley Clark (Bishop/Ensemble), a senior at Sandra Day O'Connor High School, has now performed on the Herberger stage three times with VYT. Speaking of the Herberger, he mentioned, "My favorite thing about performing at the Herberger is the size of the facility and the professional vibe you get from performing there. It is such a pretty theatre and being able to perform on a stage that size is such a privilege and the rush you get from it is great. The fact that we get to perform at the herberger adds a more professional aspect to the show by giving us a feeling of how being a performer is in the real world and gives us insight on how the whole process is done by professional theaters".
Chelsea Carll (Mama Bear), a junior at Arizona Conservatory for the Arts and Academics, made her VYT debut on the Herberger stage with Shrek! She brought up a part of the show that I felt fully immersed the audience in the show and certainly broke the fourth wall. "The scariest thing within this process was the part when the fairy tale creatures run through the audience up the ramps full speed to stop the wedding. I thought I was going to fall but they weren't as bad once you got going". Chelsea believes that although the show is amazing on the outside, there is something happening that makes it even more worth it for her. "The amazing costumes and stage are beautiful and the cherry on top, but the real magic is behind the scenes where I can take any audience member on a journey for 2 and a half hours, and make them smile".
Both actors mentioned that the hardest part of the process was spacing out dance numbers from their rehearsal space at VYT's home facility to the larger space at the Herberger. Riley said, "These tech/spacing rehearsals require a lot of patience and time commitment, tension tends to get high but it's all worth it in the end". Chelsea mentioned that, "Going from the stage at our own theatre, to that stage where we had more space to fill, just meant we had more audience to entertain. I will never forget the day of sitzprobe where we got to rehearse with the full band and orchestra. The overwhelming sounds and blends of two different passions, just melted together into a masterpiece of music".
Although VYT's Shrek The Musical is now closed, they return to the Herberger stage October 28 - November 19, 2017 for Madagascar, A Musical Adventure! Be sure to check out vyt.org for audition and show dates.
Special thank you to Riley Clark and Chelsea Carll for your time, and VYT's entire cast and crew of Shrek for such a spectacular show!