“Shrek, the Musical,” a fairytale romance between a kindly ogre and a beautiful princess based on a DreamWorks animated movie, was the top draw of The Theatre in the Park’s 2015 season.
“Shrek” drew an audience of 7,284, followed by “West Side Story” with 6,306; “Annie Warbucks,” 4,500; “The Wiz,” 4,091, and “The Secret Garden,” 3,073, said Tim Bair, producing artistic director at The Theatre in the Park.
“We had two rain-outs, one at “The Wiz,” the other at “The Secret Garden,” he said.
“West Side Story,” a classic of American musical theater, was the only show of the season previously produced at The Theatre in the Park. The other shows all were first timers.
“The Wiz,” an ethnic telling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” included Dorothy and her friends plus high energy Motown music. “Annie Warbucks” picked up Annie’s life after her adoption by billionaire Oliver Warbucks. “The Secret Garden” followed 11-year-old Mary, who is orphaned by an earthquake and sent to live in the English mansion of her uncle, where she discovers a secret garden.
“It didn’t surprise me that ‘Shrek’ drew the largest crowd,” Bair said. “A great show with great music and appeal for both youngsters and adults, especially kids who’d seen the movie. It was wonderful to see the kids glued to their seats, never taking their eyes off the stage. We had a marvelous cast, very close-knit, that enjoyed working hard.”
“I’d say it was one of our most successful productions. Of course, I could be biased: I directed it,” Bair said with a laugh.
“Shrek” is the second show co-produced by The Theatre in The Park and White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center. By sharing the expense of sets, costumes and props and using the same cast and director, each theater saved about $7,500, Bair said. He directed at both theaters.
“Any time you can share expenses, it’s good for everyone,” he added.
The show ran for eight performances at White Theatre then moved to The Theatre in the Park for seven more. Each theater kept its own gate receipts. The first collaboration between the theaters was “Hairspray” in 2013.
“It’s been so successful we may consider it again next year,” Bair said.
Samantha Agron, cultural arts director at The Jewish Community Center, agreed the partnership is an auspicious one.
“We drew about 2,800 for the eight shows in White Theatre,” Agron said.
“We have a great relationship with The Theatre in the Park. Both ventures have been very successful. It enables us to do much more from a production aspect,” Agron said. “We were pleased with the size of the crowds. We seat 500 in White Theatre.”
Especially gratifying is that “Shrek” playing first at White Theatre didn’t suppress crowds at The Theatre in the Park.
“I think some people who saw it first at White might may have wanted see it again at our theater or maybe recommend it to friends,” Bair said.
He said using the same cast and director in both theaters appeals to the performers. “The run is twice as long and actors like that. They really get into it.”
Robert Hingula, who portrayed Shrek, liked the longer run. “Knowing you’re performing before a different audience at each show is one of the joys of live theater,” he said. “Moving the show from one theater to the other was easy. It went like a well-oiled machine.”
It took two hours before each show to put on Hingula’s makeup. “I thought I might have a problem with makeup when we left air-conditioned White Theatre for the outdoor heat at the Theatre in the Park,” he said. “One time it came loose but we touched it up at intermission and it was fine.”
“Actually, we lucked out. Don’t get me wrong, it was hot, but not as hot as I expected. Closing night was in the 70s,” Hingula said.
“‘Shrek’ is a special show, one of my favorites,” he said. “I have a soft spot in my heart for kid shows,” said Hingula, who in 2012 played Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”
“Shrek” was his 10th show at The Theatre in the Park.