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The wait is ogre: Marina Youth Theatre ready to present ‘Shrek the Musical’

Noah Doody, 18, left, rehearsing for his role as Shrek, runs through a scene with cast members and dragon puppeteers.
Noah Doody, 18, left, rehearsing for his role as Shrek, runs through a scene with cast members and dragon puppeteers Catherine Dosier, 16, and Spike Banks, 17, during a Marina Youth Theatre rehearsal for “Shrek the Musical” on Monday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Collin Higgins has been in youth theater since he was 5 years old.

After graduating from Dwyer Middle School, the incoming Huntington Beach High freshman was looking for a production to perform in. He and a couple of friends had acted in the Marina High production of “Matilda” in February.

But some of his usual performance troupes were no longer raising the curtain.

“With COVID, some of the smaller theaters have shut down and never come back,” said Higgins’ mother, Kelly Scotten. “He wanted to do something this summer, and he’s been working with this team of directors for six years. I thought that the cheerleaders can do a junior cheer camp, basketball teams do junior basketball, so why can’t we do a youth theater program to raise money for the high school theater program at Marina?”

Marina Youth Theatre was formed last spring. Three months later, the group is ready for its first production.

Lexy Rocha, center, rehearses her role as the dragon during Marina Youth Theatre's rehearsal for "Shrek the Musical" Monday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“Shrek the Musical” (music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire) debuts Thursday night at Huntington Beach High, and continues with six shows through the weekend. Tickets are available on tix.com or at the door.

As Scotten intended, the money raised will be earmarked to support the well-regarded Marina High program.

“It’s nice to have a place where young people can come and do musical theater, have a connection to our high school, get to rehearse on our campus and perform at a facility that’s part of our district,” said Marina High vocal music director Eric Graham. “I think it’s a nice pipeline for kids and families in Huntington Beach and Westminster to know that we have a vibrant musical theater performance group at Marina.”

Kathy Busby and Diane Christensen are co-directing the show, which features 39 child actors. The age range spans from 10 years old to recent high school graduates.

Noah Doody, who recently collected his diploma from Edison High, plays Shrek. Fiona is played by two different actresses, Ava Melgoza and Catherine Dosier, who are an incoming senior and junior, respectively, at Huntington Beach High.

They take turns playing the two versions of Fiona, ogre and princess.

Taylor McDannold, 14, gets ready for her role as the Queen of Hearts during Monday's rehearsal.
Taylor McDannold, 14, gets ready for her role as the Queen of Hearts during Monday’s rehearsal.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Doody said he’s part Scottish, which helps with his role, and he’s spent months perfecting the accent made famous in the movies by Mike Myers.

“I mean, it’s Shrek,” said Doody, adding that he played one of the three pigs and a guard in a “Shrek” production when he was a sophomore at Edison. “Everyone knows Shrek, everyone loves Shrek. I kind of grew up with Shrek.”

Christensen has previously directed in school plays, including Marina, so she said it was natural for her to come back and help with the new organization.

Since rehearsals started in May, the kids have been working three days a week — including Saturdays — all summer to prepare for the show.

“They’ve worked so hard that we feel very comfortable coming into show week,” Christensen said. “It’s time for us to be in the space so they can get accustomed to not performing in a small dance room, especially with the dragon.”

Members of the Marina Youth Theatre run lines for "Shrek the Musical" at Huntington Beach High School on Monday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Even with the long lead time, they faced some obstacles. When the actor who played the dragon dropped out last week, Lexy Rocha was there to answer the call. Nathan Andreas, an incoming freshman at Huntington Beach High, plays the wisecracking donkey.

Several of the high school actors, including both female leads, also participate in the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts.

“This one, because it’s children’s theater, it’s a little bit more loose,” Dosier said. “It’s equally fun for everyone. All of the kids feel included, and the older kids feel like they can get their stuff done. It’s a different experience, but it’s just as great of an acting program.”

Dosier added that Shrek was the first show she ever did in the sixth grade. She was in the ensemble as the ugly duckling.

Members of the Marina Youth Theatre run lines for "Shrek the Musical" during Monday's rehearsal.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I’ve always loved this show and the characters,” she said. “It’s funny because it’s the same costumes that my first production used. It’s like I got to step into the role of the lead that I looked up to when I was in sixth grade … It’s literally a dream. It’s surreal.”

Melgoza said the show has really come together in the last week and said she hopes it is entertaining for people of all ages.

“Little kids are like, ‘Oh my gosh, Shrek!’” she said. “And even older people, they really like the story of it because it tells all of the different fairy tales.”

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