This story first appeared in the February 2020 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Over a decade since the last full-length larger-scale musical production, Revelstoke is again getting a taste of Broadway. This month, Flying Arrow Productions is bringing Shrek The Musical to the Performing Arts Centre.
The musical productions that were once so beloved by the Revelstoke community haven’t been feasible since the Revelstoke Theatre Company produced Chicago 11 years ago. Struggles to find enough volunteers and a space that could accommodate it has made putting on a production like Mary Poppins or Mamma Mia a near impossibility until now.
The Flying Arrow Production of Shrek has been in the works for quite some time and the company’s artistic director Anita Hallewas has had to come up with some creative ways to address the shortage of volunteers and theatre professionals.
As is often the case for any sort of volunteer-run enterprise, a small number of volunteers do the bulk of the work. Hallewas says this production was no exception.
But the greater issue for the production was the question of who would take on the stage manager role. As far as they knew, there was no one in Revelstoke willing or able to do so. To solve this, Hallewas started from the ground up. She had a professional come in from out of town to host a stage management training course. One of the course attendees, Brendan MacIntosh, then took on the position.
Hallewas says she joked to MacIntosh that Shrek is likely to be the biggest show he will ever manage, but she’s not far off. Not only is this production the first larger-scale musical in a decade, it’s also the most ambitious production ever attempted by the company. It’s their longest production to date and with 50 members, has the largest cast of any previous production.
“We have such a strong creative team. We have several people working on vocals, several people working on choreography,” she says. “We have such a strong team of local performing artists working with our cast and mentoring them all. We just keep pushing that level.”
“Through projects like this, we’re building up our membership and our support network.”
Because of the fantastical nature of Shrek, the costumes were also a huge undertaking. Costumes for characters like Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and the three little pigs had to be made by hand.
“The costumes aren’t regular human costumes. We have 91 costumes in the show and they’re all being made from scratch because it’s not like you can go and buy a suit in the thrift store,” she says.
Hallewas says the decision to put on Shrek, in particular, was one made by the community last January during the best-attended meeting in the theatre company’s history. The company’s mandate to support children, youth and seniors also played into the decision-making process.
“[It] totally surprised me because the room was full of a lot of older people and I felt sure they’d go with something more traditional,” she says. “But [they] wanted Shrek the most.”
Shrek was seen as fresh and fun and not overdone so the choice was settled and the work began to put the production together. The sheer scale and quality of the musical is likely to be beyond any production put on here since Chicago.
Hallewas describes the musical as light, especially compared to the theatre company’s previous productions, but says it still contains a positive message by having a strong and independent female lead character and plot-lines that celebrate being unique.
“I think what will come across is that it’s fun and entertaining and heartwarming too,” she says. “Audiences are going to be seeing a high-quality musical that makes them laugh. I think people will be impressed by the quality… The skill of the cast is mind-blowing. The calibre of the actors and the singers is just amazing.”
The musical runs at 7 p.m. on February 7,8,13,14, and 15 with 2:30 p.m. matinees on the 8th and 15th and a gala the evening of the 8th. Tickets are available at ArtFirst! Gallery, the Revelstoke Family Pharmacy and online at flyingarrowproductions.ca.