HUNTERSVILLE – SouthLake Christian Academy is integrating students across a range of grades in its upcoming spring production of “Shrek: The Musical.”
Helping make those in the audience believers are 6-year-old Elliette Platania, who plays JK and Baby Bear, and 10-year-olds Jesse Smith and Nylah Lee, who each play “young” versions of main characters Shrek and Fiona, respectively.
For 12th-grader Carley Knox, who plays Fiona, having the green thespians involved is different but still rewarding.
“You have to go slower, and incorporate them into everything,” Knox said. “You have to really make sure they’re having fun.”
Director and 2015 SouthLake graduate Alexa Wallace is directing her third play at the school.
“The high school kids are amazing with the elementary students,” Wallace said in an email. “It is heartwarming to see how encouraging they are, especially with our kindergartener. The younger kids are having such a good time, and I’m glad that our high schoolers have taken it upon themselves to be so supportive to the younger kids.”
Jesse said the older students have been helpful with the choreography, which is led by SouthLake theater veteran Gina Duckworth.
There are 36 students in the cast for “Shrek: The Musical,” with several more as part of the crew. Wallace said the popularity of the production among those involved stems from having something for everyone, beyond acting or singing.
“I think the play is a wonderful outlet for creative kids,” Wallace said. “Some of my fondest memories from high school are those from the play. … For those who like to sing, they can perform onstage. For those who like construction, they can build the set. Some kids like to sew and they help with costumes. Others help with technology and sound. There are so many elements that go into a production and everyone that helps is necessary.”
Since the school doesn’t have a permanent stage, rehearsals are done in the cafeteria, and a temporary stage will be set up in the gymnasium closer to showtime.
That’s where the audience will see 12th-grader Jadan Funderburk perform in his first theater production – in the title role.
“It’s pretty stressful, I’m not going to lie,” Funderburk said, noting that he had originally tried out for the role of Donkey. “It’s rough indeed, but I hope there’s a good payoff coming for it.”
In his fourth SouthLake production, Sam Clark wound up as Donkey and helped bring Funderburk to the stage.
“We found out he could sing,” Knox said.
Wallace said as Shrek, Funderburk will be green, but she wants to keep the rest of the costume under wraps until the shows commence.
“Jadan has been working so hard to make this show amazing,” Wallace said. “He takes pride in the work that he does and it shows when he is on stage.”
Despite the light-hearted nature of the play, the main characters said there are important messages to be gleaned from watching the journey of an ogre, his donkey and a princess.
“Beauty is on the inside,” Funderburk said. “There’s a lot of life lessons to take away from this goofy play.”