Green Machine: 'Shrek' takes over the Shakespeare stage at Navy Pier for summer

2013-07-07T00:00:00Z 2013-07-08T14:57:19Z Green Machine: 'Shrek' takes over the Shakespeare stage at Navy Pier for summerBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Director Rachel Rockwell isn't afraid to make a parental promise about her new staging of "Shrek The Musical" and the production's equal pull for both kids and adults.

"It's a 75-minute no intermission performance, and I can say without doubt, you can be an adult without kids and attend this run and laugh at 60 minutes of everything you see and hear," Rockwell said Tuesday, taking a break from rehearsals at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier, which will be the home of "Shrek" for the summer.

"I've been laughing with the cast everyday since we started rehearsals two weeks ago."

"Shrek The Musical," directed and choreographed by Rockwell with music direction by Michael Mahler, opens July 13 and runs until Sept. 1 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Courtyard Theater.

Based on the Academy Award-winning DreamWorks film and the book by William Steig, it stars Jeff Award-winning actor Michael Aaron Lindner as the lovable green ogre and Jeff Award-winning actress Summer Naomi Smart in her Chicago Shakespeare Theater debut as the spunky Princess Fiona.

Rockwell worked with Lindner earlier this summer at Drury Lane Theatre when she cast him as the bad guy Mr. Bumble in the musical "Oliver!"

"In my mind, there wasn't anyone else to play the title character in 'Shrek," besides Michael," she said.

"Shrek The Musical," which also enjoyed Broadway fame, tells the story of a swamp-dwelling ogre who goes on a life-changing quest to reclaim his home and save the plight of favorite fairytale characters in danger of being done-away-with by a new kingdom dictate.

Accompanied by his wisecracking donkey friend, played for this run by James Earl Jones II, Shrek becomes an unlikely hero who fights a fearsome dragon and rescues the cursed Princess Fiona to discover the value of friendship while realizing true love is more than skin deep.

Rockwell staged last summer's family fare at Navy Pier with "Beauty and the Beast," along with "Pinocchio" the previous year and "The Emperor's New Clothes" in 2010.

Travis Taylor, who played the Beast in last summer's CST family musical "Beauty and the Beast," returns this summer to play the small but mightily mean Lord Farquaad.

Rockwell admits the audience-friendly seating, surrounding much of the stage in the Courtyard space at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, provided some challenge for bringing her version of "Shrek" to life.

"We have dragons and fairytale creatures all over in our scenes and audience seated along three-sides of the stage, requiring a few tricks to work some magic," she said.

"But it makes it even more exciting for the audience to be up and close with all the favorite characters."

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