PITTSBURG, Kan. — It’s time to let your freak flag wave. One of the largest shows that Pittsburg High School has produced will come to life on stage at Memorial Auditorium this week, and it’s not one to be missed.

My older son is part of the cast of “Shrek, The Musical,” so since Dec. 12, our life, like so many other local families, has revolved around rehearsals. It’s hard to believe, but counting the four hours they’re putting in this afternoon, the cast has logged an amazing 164.5 hours after school, on weekends, and on days off of school.

Multiply that times the 40 students in the cast, the 25 students in the crew, and the 15 in the pit band, and that’s more hours than my calculator can tally.

There are 100 characters in the show, which means cast members each have at least a few costume and role changes. Some, like senior Olivia Joy, have five: She’s Tinkerbell, the voice of puppet Gingy, one of the Three Blind Mice, one of the Pied Piper’s Rats, and a Duloc Dancer. Whew.

Likewise, the set is big. Director Greg Shaw got all 1,000 pounds of it from Theatre in the Park in Kansas City and a semi from Watco Cos. trucked it here. It transforms the stage into a castle, a swamp, a dragon’s lair, a bishop’s cathedral, a forest, Fiona’s tower, and a campsite. It requires a fly cabinet and rails in order to move up and down and sideways, which meant having to stage the show at Memorial Auditorium.

It has been challenging to do so, Shaw said, because in a 49-minute class, minus drive time to and from the auditorium, there isn’t much time left to work. It also means Shaw is dependent on auditorium staff — he can’t just decide to stay until 10 p.m. if he’s on a roll designing something. It’s required extreme focus, organization and creativity.

But it also means the pit band will get to perform in a true orchestra pit for the first time. They’re under the direction of PHS band director Cooper Neil. The show’s music direction is by vocal teacher Susan Laushman. And PHS technical director Chuck Boyles and Memorial’s own tech crew have been working with the student crew for an unparalleled learning experience.

The show’s makeup was designed by John Holland of Kansas City’s Stage, Face & Hair. His credits are lengthy and include Theatre in the Park’s production of “Shrek” last year. A time-lapse video at www.pittsburghighschooltheatre.org provides a sneak peek of Holland turning senior Jack Warring into the big green ogre, Shrek, using prosthetics in a two-hour process.

Serving as apprentices were a few of Shaw’s former theater students, now PHS graduates, who learned the process and will replicate it for each of the shows. Two more PHS grads, sisters Mollie and Maggie Stephens, returned to Pittsburg from Kansas City each weekend for two months to teach and rehearse the show’s dance numbers.

Although big and lavish in so many ways, the show includes simple theatrical gags that should draw the giggles. Watch for an “exploding” bluebird, Pinocchio’s nose to grow, a rat to “run” across the stage, and more.

And watch for senior Jared Wilde, who portrays Lord Farquaad in the style of the Broadway musical: on his knees for the entire show.

The cast will perform a few musical numbers Tuesday for all Pittsburg elementary and middle school students to give them a taste of what the show entails, then an entire show for the media on Tuesday afternoon, before starting a five-show run from Wednesday through Saturday.

More details and ticket information can be found at www.pittsburghighschooltheatre.org. Break a leg, cast and crew.


Andra Bryan Stefanoni, a former Globe reporter, now works as a freelancer. She lives in Pittsburg, Kan.


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Andra Bryan Stefanoni is a staff writer for The Joplin Globe. She has been a reporter and editor at The Pittsburg Morning Sun and the former Girard Press, has written for state and national magazines, and has taught journalism.