Theater companies say it all the time:
“It’s never been done before.”
It’s a little bit of predictable hype, but Charleston Light Opera Guild means it with its new production of “Shrek the Musical,” which opens Friday night at the Charleston Coliseum Little Theater.
Michael Gore, who plays the oafish, green-skinned title character, said, “The guild has never done anything like this before. We’ve never done a show with this level of makeup.”
He said, “We originally blocked doing makeup at about an hour and a half, but that may go more toward two hours.”
When the actors went into costuming and makeup, after rehearsing for several weeks, changes needed to be made.
“For our first run-through, I had a full-face prosthetic that changed my face into Shrek.”
It looked pretty good, but it was essentially a full mask.
“I could do no expression at all,” Gore said, adding, “Now, we’re doing more pieces, so that I can have expression while I’m on the stage.”
Gore isn’t the only actor with extensive makeup. Chester Gregory, who plays Donkey, also has to spend a lot of time in the makeup chair, for example. And then there are the costumes, which are cumbersome.
Most of the main characters have to wear special body suits to give them the cartoonish shapes of their characters, which are then covered up with costumes.
Some of the actors play multiple characters and have to make very quick changes, which includes losing a coating of makeup to look more human.
The dragon, Gore added, is a huge collection of pieces that takes four people to operate and a singer.
“It’s 15 feet long,” he said.
Even without the makeup, costumes and effects, Gore said the show would be challenging.
“The music is beautiful,” he said. “You want to think this is a kid’s show. It’s not. It’s a family friendly show, sure, but it’s not a kid’s show. The music is challenging.”
Gore laughed and said, “Just to tell you how rusty my voice was, I’m hitting notes on stage with some of these songs that I haven’t hit in years.”
As with most guild summer productions, rehearsal time has been a little shorter than usual. Gore said it’s been a lot of intense work, but the show has come together.
It usually does.
The actor has been on stage in about a half dozen Light Opera Guild productions, though he said he’s usually backstage or selling tickets. He wanted to be on stage for “Shrek.”
“I liked the cartoon, but wasn’t crazy about it,” Gore said. “But I got to see the Broadway show when it opened and fell in love with it.”
It is a spectacle, but Gore said he loved the music and the message.
“It’s about inclusiveness,” he said. “No matter how you look or act, you ought to be included. Also, it points out that beautiful isn’t always pretty.”